NewsHealth / July 3, 2014

Dental Hygienists Get More Flexibility Under New Law

Brandon Smith
Dental Hygienists Get More Flexibility Under New Law

Dental hygienists in Indiana have greater flexibility to see patients without a dentist being present under legislation now in effect. 

Previously under Indiana law, dental hygienists were allowed to provide routine dental care, such as cleanings or x-rays, without direct supervision by a dentist, but the dentist had to be in the office.  Legislation unanimously approved by the General Assembly allows routine care to be done without a dentist present, under specific circumstances.

The patient has to be notified beforehand, must have had an oral exam by a dentist in the last seven months and must have up-to-date medical records.  And the hygienists must have at least two years experience.

State Rep. Dave Frizzell, R-Indianapolis, authored the bill and says it’s making legal a practice that was already happening.

“And it really wasn’t supposed to, but in a lot of dentists’ practices, let their hygienist who has the experience and the knowledge to go ahead and move forward without him or her being over their shoulders,” Frizzell said.

Indiana Dental Association executive director Doug Bush says he expects more dentists to use the new flexibility gradually over time.

“Probably initially there won’t be a significant change, but as dentists get used to this possibility of relaxed supervision, I would say over the next two to three years you’re likely to see it more commonplace,” Bush said.

Prior to the bill’s passage, hygienists had been able to practice without a dentist present in a limited number of places, including public health clinics and correctional facilities.  The legislation adds nursing homes to that list.