The Colorado Dental Association is pleased to see Angel Henry responding to a need in her community and opening a dental hygiene clinic to provide more people with local dental hygiene services.
Colorado is a unique state where dental hygienists can offer some services without a dentist present on site. This can allow more people to get hygiene services. However, there are also regulations in place that help assure that patients are protected and receive the best possible care.
Last Sunday's article, "Hygienist to open Oak Creek practice," at times overstates the allowances for unsupervised dental hygiene practice.
Under the new law, unsupervised dental hygienists are allowed to take impressions of teeth to make models for use in oral hygiene instruction and for records purposes. However, trays for teeth bleaching are not allowed without a prescription from a dentist. Unsupervised dental hygienists cannot provide all types of anesthesia - only local anesthesia, an injection or gel that numbs a small area. X-rays can be taken by a dental hygienist, but a dentist must read and interpret them.
The Colorado state Legislature and dental licensing board have determined that many dental hygiene services still require the oversight of a dentist to ensure that patients are best protected.
In addition, it is important to note that the exams performed by a dental hygienist differ from those offered by a dentist. Because of this, the bill states that all patients should be advised to see a dentist twice a year. We were happy to read that Ms. Henry is working to recruit a dentist to see patients in her area, and we commend her actions to this end.
Dr. Jeffery Hurst
President, Colorado Dental Association