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

Friday, February 22, 2008 General News
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CHICAGO, Feb. 21 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

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