by Christine Nathe, RDH, MS
There was some truly exciting news this past month — for dental hygiene and for the patients we serve. In California, a law was enacted that creates the Dental Hygiene Committee of California. This committee will assume full authority to regulate the licensure, education, and regulatory enforcement for the profession of dental hygiene in the state of California. The committee will be comprised of four consumers, one general practice or public health dentist, and four dental hygienists.
This represents an exciting new era in our young profession. It is my belief that all professions should be responsible for regulating their own practice, providing their own specific education, and conducting their own research. In most states this has not always been the case, particularly regarding the regulation of dental hygiene practice. In most states, dental hygienists are regulated by a dental board, which is primarily composed of dentists.
Generally, health-care providers assume the responsibility of regulating the provision of health care in the United States. Nursing boards regulate nurses, medical boards regulate medical doctors, physical therapy boards regulate physical therapy practice, and dental boards regulate dentists. The concept is that the experts should be responsible for regulating their own professions and enforcing professional standards. This will ensure that experts effectively and safely treat the public. Dental hygiene is no different; dental hygienists should assume the responsibility to regulate their profession.
The profession really does have a long way to go in improving the public's health. Dental hygienists regulating dental hygienists makes sense. It is logical to assume that the experts in the field should take responsibility to regulate. Let's keep moving forward to ensure safe and effective dental hygiene care for the public we serve!