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Dental Hygiene Trends in Administration of Local Anesthetic Agents

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As of 2019, 45 States in the U.S. have delegated the administration of local
anesthetic agents to dental hygienists.

9 of them authorize administration local anesthesia
under the general supervision of a dentist.


In 1971, Washington State made history by changing the scope of practice for dental hygienists when legislation was enacted to authorize dental hygienists to  deliver local anesthetic agents (LAA). 48 years later, 45 states plus DC, now authorize dental hygienists to provide this service. 


In 2018, Alabama joined the ranks of states authorizing anesthetic. Georgia now has 4 neighboring states that allow dental hygienist to deliver local anesthesia. In 2020, the University of Mississippi School of Dentistry will also become a history-maker when their dental hygiene Class of 2020 enters their senior year, these students will be the first class in Mississippi to be trained in administering local anesthesia to patients.


The following map demonstrates the number of instructional hours required by each state before dental hygienists may become licensed to administer local anesthesia:


On November 4, 2022, the action of the Georgia Board of Dentistry authorized local anesthesia under direct supervision for dental hygienists.  Requirements include a minimum of 60 hours of additional education including 30 hours of didactic, 15 hours of laboratory, and 15 hours of clinical.  Other limitations are that local anesthesia is permitted on patients age 18 and older.  Dental hygienists must only administer local anesthesia to their dental hygiene patients for dental hygiene services.  Dental hygienists will not be permitted to administer local anesthesia on patients that will be treated by a dentist.

Programs in Georgia will need to be developed to address the educational requirements.  Students with a minimum 80% passing rate will be issued a certificate of completion.

The “rule” must be sent to the Governor for signature.   The Governor has 90 days to sign.  If he does not sign, it becomes effective 90 days after it was received by the office.

Rule 150-5-.07

The course for local anesthesia certification provided by the University of Florida is acceptable to the GBOD is “Local Anesthesia for Today’s Dental Hygienist”. After the rule is signed, additional certification courses will be made available in Georgia.


The addition of Georgia brings the total number of states that allow dental hygienists to administer local anesthesia to 47, plus Washington D.C.

The national average for total required instruction (including both didactic and clinical hours when applicable) is 22 hours. Following is a link to the ADHA Local Anesthesia Chart by State of required instruction hours for dental hygienists administering local anesthetic agents.  


Dental hygienists in GA may not be delegated administration of injectable local anesthetic agents. The GA BOD Dental Policy Manual authorizes the delegation of "Non-Injectable Local Anesthetics", including but not limited to: Oraqix,





In a 2017 review of the literature published in the Journal of American Dental Association (JADA,)  Topical anesthetics may result in more pain and need for rescue anesthetics than infiltrative anesthetics in patients undergoing scaling and root planing. 

In their systematic review and meta-analysis of Intrapocket topical anesthetic versus injected anesthetic for pain control during scaling and root planing in adult patients, the authors concluded that injected anesthetic decreased the intensity of pain and the need for rescue anesthetic during scaling and root planing, but the risk of developing pain yielded similar results for injected and topical anesthetics.

Dental Hygiene Trends in Administration of Nitrous Oxide 
Nitrous oxide is a colorless, odorless to sweet-smelling inorganic gas that was first used in surgical and dental anesthesia in the mid-1800s. Today, the combination of inhaled nitrous oxide and oxygen, when used appropriately, can be a safe and effective means of managing pain and anxiety in dentistry.  Referred to as “conscious sedation,” “relative analgesia,” or “nitrous oxide-oxygen sedation,” inhaled nitrous oxide-oxygen is the most used gaseous anesthetic in the world and a 2007 survey by the ADA estimated that 70% of dental practices using any form of sedation employed nitrous oxide-oxygen sedation.


Dental Best Practices for Nitrous Oxide-Oxygen Use

Adopting appropriate work practices and following recommendations from the Council on Scientific Affairs (CSA) may help dental offices safely use nitrous oxide-oxygen.

Following are recommendations developed by the Council on Scientific Affairs:

  • Every nitrous oxide delivery system should be equipped with a scavenging system. A flow meter (or equivalent measuring device) should be easy to see and well maintained to ensure accuracy. The system also should have a vacuum pump with the capacity for up to 45 liters of air per minute per workstation. The system also should come with masks in various sizes to ensure a proper fit for individual patients.

  • Vent the vacuum and ventilation exhaust fumes outside (for example, through a vacuum system). Do not place exhaust system in the vicinity of the fresh-air intake vents. Ensure that the general ventilation provides good room-air mixing. Chronic occupational exposure—several hours a week—to unscavenged nitrous oxide has been associated with adverse health effects.3

  • Test the pressure connections for leaks every time the nitrous system is first turned on and each time a gas cylinder is changed. High-pressure line connections should be tested for leaks at least quarterly. You can use a soap solution applied to the lines and connections to test for leaks. Alternatively, you can purchase a portable infrared spectrophotometer to test these connections.

  • Before the initial use of the system for the day, inspect all of the system components—reservoir bag, tubings, masks, connectors—for wear, cracks, holes or tears. Replace any damaged pieces.

  • Once all of the components have passed inspection, you can connect the mask to the tubing and turn on the vacuum pump. Ensure that the flow rate is correct—up to 45 liters per minute or according to the manufacturer’s recommendation.

  • The mask should be properly fitted to each patient. Check that the reservoir bag does not over- or underinflate while the patient is breathing oxygen, before the nitrous is administered.

  • Ask the patient to limit talking during administration of the nitrous and to try to breathe through his or her nose—avoid breathing through the mouth if possible.

  • During administration, watch for changes in the tidal volume of the reservoir bag also keep an eye on the vacuum pump flow rate.

  • After the procedure, deliver 100% oxygen to the patient for 5 minutes before removing the mask. This will purge the system of any residual nitrous oxide and will help the patient clear the drug.

  • Periodically (semiannually is suggested), personnel—particularly those who work with the nitrous oxide delivery—can be assessed for exposure. This can be done by asking the staff members to wear personal dosimetry badges or by placing an infrared spectrophotometer in the room.

Although there is no formal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard on nitrous oxide or anesthetic gases, nitrous oxide is included in the OSHA guideline, Anesthetic Gases: Guidelines for Workplace Exposures.

Nitrous Oxide Instruction requirements vary across the country and range from 2 to 30 hours depending on state Board requirements or the dental hygiene core curriculum in that particular state. Georgia does not require any formal training for dental assistants or dental hygienists to monitor a patient under nitrous oxide sedation.

For more information on nitrous oxide administration visit:

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Aof 2018, the majority of State Dental Boards (33 of them) allow the administration of nitrous oxide (N2O-O2) by dental hygienists.

9 states are “silent” on the issue and do not address it in their state practice act. 

8 states authorize “monitoring” only…GA is one of them.

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