BY Kara Vavrosky, RDH
I spend a lot of time reading online, from researching answers to questions I receive, to following the different hygiene-related groups on Facebook. I often come across hygienists asking something along the lines of, "Am I allowed to [blank] in the state of [blank]?" These questions are often followed with comments like, "In my state, which is not the one you asked about, you can do this..."
Do these comments about what other hygienists can do in their state help? Just because a hygienist in Oregon can give anesthetic, does that mean everyone can? Would you put your license on the line because someone says they think you can perform a certain task? No, no, and of course not!
The most accurate way to find an answer to anything regarding the rules and regulations that you work under is to check your state's dental practice act. In fact, it's your duty to know your state's dental practice act. Put those research skills you learned in hygiene school to good use by going straight to the source at your board of dentistry.
So, when was the last time you searched online for your state's board of dentistry and read through the dental practice act? If you don't remember, or it's been over a year, that's a problem. Rules and regulations are constantly changing. You are 100% responsible for knowing about these changes. You could be performing a certain task that is actually not in your scope of practice, hence illegal, and not even know it.
Another important reason to keep familiar with your state's dental practice act is that mandatory CEs change. Again, it's your responsibility to know these changes. For instance, in my home state of Oregon, as of January 1, 2015, we are required to have two CEs in infection control. Now what if you didn't know this and you were audited? Ironically, I've been randomly chosen for audit for my renewal this year. Being unaware that CE requirements change could have jeopardized my license.
Along the same lines as knowing your state's dental practice act, I also see many questions from hygienists about obtaining licensure in a different state. For example, "I'm licensed in Oregon and took the WREB clinical exam. Do I have to retake the clinical exam if I move to Florida?" It doesn't matter what the rules and regulations are in Oregon. If you're planning to practice in Florida, the first place you should look is Florida's board of dentistry website, specifically under licensing and registration. Be proactive and get your facts from the actual source, just as hygiene school taught us to do.
By no means am I trying to discourage people from asking questions. Heck, I run a question-and-answer website called Dental Hygiene Answers. However, when it comes to questions about a specific state, many of the answers can be readily found on the state's board of dentistry website.
While it's important to keep up on advances in dentistry, it's also important to keep up on the rules and regulations under which you practice. "I didn't know" is not an excuse the board is likely to entertain. I encourage you to be a proactive and responsible clinician by staying current on the laws and guidelines under which you practice. RDH
Kara Vavrosky, RDH, runs the popular Facebook page, Dental Hygiene with Kara RDH, and is also the founder of DentalHygieneAnswers.com, a question and answer platform for dental hygienists. Kara serves on the Clinical Advisory Board of GoodMouth, a toothbrush subscription service, and the Advisory Board of Support Clean Dentistry, an initiative to raise awareness of cleanliness in the dental office. Kara currently works for a one-doctor, family-oriented practice in Portland, Oregon.