Dental Hygiene…Its Not Just About Scaling Anymore
Increasing access to care through increased practice settings

The profession of dental hygiene began in public health when in 1914, the first students of Dr. Alfred C. Fones, were trained to provide oral health education and prophylaxis in school settings to “improve the mouths of the Bridgeport Public School children”. In fact, over a 10 year period these women were able to decrease the incidence of dental caries by 50% through preventive measures alone.

Today, most individuals receive dental treatment in private dental offices where dental hygienists, who work under the supervision of a dentist, are employed. Unfortunately access to dental care, both preventive and restorative, is a large problem among poor and minority populations.

The  American Dental Hygienists' Association has been at the forefront of addressing access issues for the underserved and unserved for many years. To address access to care issues more states are increasing the scope of practice for dental hygienists, to break down supervisory barriers and increase practice settings. There has also been an increase in states that allow direct reimbursement of Medicaid to dental hygienists.

While other states, including Maine, support public health practice to improve access to dental care for their residents. In public health practice the dentist provides general supervision to a licensed dental hygienist, with the exception that the patient being treated is not a patient of record of the dentist providing PHS, but of the hygienist. Additionally, the dental hygienist must practice in settings other than a traditional practice, such as but not limited to public and private schools, medical facilities, nursing homes, residential care facilities, dental vans.

For a listing of other states that allow direct access to a dental hygienist,  click here .

Community Water Fluoridation in Massachusetts

Currently 140 communities in Massachusetts offer the health and economic benefits of community water fluoridation to its residents. For over 60 years community water fluoridation has been proven to be the most safe, effective, cost-efficient and equitable means to reducing dental caries. The  Healthy People 2010 objectives aim to increase the proportion of the U.S. population served by community water systems with optimally fluoridated water to 75%. At this time, 59.1% of Massachusetts residents are served by optimally fluoridated water.

MDHA and ADHA support community water fluoridation with policy statement 6-04/58-82:“The American Dental Hygienists' Association supports water fluoridation as a safe and effective method for reducing the incidence of dental caries. In addition, the American Dental Hygienists' Association supports education of the public and other health professionals regarding the preventive and therapeutic benefits of fluoride”.