MNDHA Supports Advanced Dental Hygiene Practitioner Bill in Legislature of the State of Minnesota

Feb 21, 2008, 00:00 ET from American Dental Hygienists' Association

    CHICAGO, Feb. 21 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Minnesota Dental
 Hygienists' Association (MNDHA) applauds the Legislature of the State of
 Minnesota for the introduction of H.F. No. 3247, and companion S.F. 2895,
 bills calling for the creation of an Advanced Dental Hygiene Practitioner
 (ADHP) in the state of Minnesota. The legislation and upcoming hearing --
 scheduled for Monday, February 25th -- are a direct response to recent
 events and research which highlight the difficulties Minnesotans and
 Americans face in accessing oral health care services -- particularly
 children, the elderly, and minority populations.
     In 2000 the Surgeon General issued the landmark report Oral Health in
 America which identified the "silent epidemic" of oral disease and called
 on oral health stakeholders to find solutions to improve the nation's
 health. There are a number of disturbing statistics which highlight the
 access to care crisis identified by the Surgeon General. Tooth decay, while
 preventable, remains the nation's most common chronic disease of childhood.
 More than 100 million Americans lack dental insurance. Last February, 12
 year old Deamonte Driver of Maryland died after an untreated abscessed
 tooth lead to a bacterial infection which spread to his brain.
     The Advanced Dental Hygiene Practitioner model was developed in
 response to the Surgeon General's call to action to increase access through
 increasing workforce flexibility and productivity. The new provider will
 work in collaboration with existing members of the oral health care team to
 provide services to patients unable to access a traditional dental office.
 ADHPs can bring a range of oral health services directly to patients in
 settings they have ready access to. ADHPs will perform the traditional
 range of preventive services currently administered by dental hygienists as
 well as therapeutic, palliative, prescriptive, diagnostic, and minimally
 invasive restorative services.
     The dental hygiene profession has been identified by the U.S. Bureau of
 Labor Statistics (BLS) as one of the fastest growing professions in the
 country. The population of dental hygienists is projected to increase by 30
 percent from 2006 to 2016. In contrast, BLS research notes that the
 population of dentists is not expected to keep pace with the growing demand
 for services over the next ten years. As the link between oral health and
 total health continues to emerge and our population ages, the focus on the
 importance of access to oral health care services will increase and the
 need for services provided by dental hygienists will continue to grow.
     Dental hygienists are licensed health care professionals educated and
 trained to prevent and treat oral disease while in its early stages. In
 order to practice as a dental hygienist, an individual must graduate from
 an accredited dental hygiene education program housed in a college or
 university, and pass a regional clinical or state examination, as well as a
 national written exam. In order to practice as an ADHP, an individual will
 be a licensed dental hygienist who completes an additional Master's degree
 program and successfully passes a comprehensive clinical examination
 developed in consultation with the Board of Dentistry.
     "The ADHP will serve as a mid-level provider in oral health akin to the
 nurse practitioner in medicine," says Mary Beth Kensek, RDH, RF, BS, MNDHA
 President. "ADHPs will provide direct access points to patients in
 currently under-utilized settings such as schools, nursing homes,
 hospitals, and public health clinics. The concept of the ADHP is certainly
 not to supplant the role of dentists, but to enhance the function of the
 oral health care team by providing oral health care services that so many
 are unable to obtain in a traditional dental office."
     "The creation of the ADHP will build upon the established collaborative
 practice agreement model in place here in Minnesota, in which hygienists
 may enter into an agreement with dentists to provide specific services in
 unsupervised settings," Kensek continued. "ADHPs will use an established
 referral mechanism to facilitate care for patients in need of additional
 treatment outside their scope of practice. They will maintain regular
 contact for consultation with other members of the oral health care team."
     The concept of a mid-level provider in oral health is not a new one.
 More than 40 countries currently have established mid-level providers in
 oral health, including Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New
 Zealand. In the United States, mid-level providers in medicine, such as
 nurse practitioners and physician's assistants, helped streamline the
 delivery of medical services.
     MNDHA believes the ADHP represents a timely, effective mechanism to
 help increase access to oral health care services for those who are
 currently disenfranchised from the oral health care system. As a Master's
 level educated, licensed professional able to provide care directly to
 patients in a variety of public health settings. ADHPs would serve as a new
 entry point into the oral health care system which would refer patients in
 need of additional care to dentists or other health care providers.
     The MNDHA's mission is to advance the art and science of dental hygiene
 by increasing the awareness of and ensuring access to quality oral health
 care, promoting the highest standard of dental hygiene education, licensure
 and practice, and representing and promoting the interests of dental
 hygiene. For more information about MNDHA, visit MNDHA at

SOURCE American Dental Hygienists' Association