The Dental Hygiene Scope of Practice
Dental hygienists work in a host of settings to deliver clinical care and work under varying levels of supervision. Each state enacts its own laws determining the services dental hygienists can perform, the settings in which they can practice, and the supervision under which they practice.
In 2018, the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) for Dental Hygienists changed, from “Health Technologists and Technicians” to “Healthcare Diagnosing or Treating Practitioner”. The newly revised 2018 SOC from the United states Office of Management and Budget classification of dental hygienists is in the same grouping as dentists - as opposed to the 2010 SOC which classified dental hygienists as “Health Technologists and Technicians.” The revised classification elevates the profession to reflect the dental hygienists’ education and expertise.
Duties of Dental Hygiene Healthcare Diagnosing and/or Treating Practitioners are to:
Identify needed dental hygiene interventions including change management, preventive services, treatment, and referrals
Administer preventive and therapeutic dental hygiene care
Assess patient oral hygiene needs via ongoing assessments and evaluation of treatment outcomes
Document all components of dental hygiene care and maintain all dental health records
Advise patients on oral health maintenance and disease prevention via appropriate self-care intervention and adapt as necessary throughout future interventions
May Work in non-traditional settings (also know as alternative practice settings)
May Provide advanced care
The growth and sustainability of the dental hygiene profession depends on strong and consistent advocacy. As a licensed profession governed by state practice acts and rules, dental hygiene and oral health care services are shaped by ever-changing policy issues. The involvement of dental hygiene professionals and ADHA/GDHA members is critical to advocacy success.
The ADHA/GDHA strives to provide members with the most up-to-date information about the practice of dental hygiene at the state level as well as a national perspective on the profession.
Each year various states have legislative bills impacting the profession of dental hygiene which pass through the legislature to become law. In 2017, GA passed HB 154 which allows the public to directly access the oral health services of dental hygienists who are now able to practice under the general supervision of a licensed dentist in certain settings.
In 2000, the U.S. Surgeon General’s Report "Oral Health in America", provides a framework for action and suggests that a National Oral Health Plan be developed to improve quality of life and to eliminate health disparities. Since the publication of the report 20 years ago which recommends that barriers between people and oral health services be removed, the scope of practice for dental hygienists has expanded across the country.