I truly love my chosen career, but feel strongly that changes in the state law in New Jersey need to be considered. I am writing to you out of frustration and to educate the public. My frustration is with the New Jersey Board of Dentistry in regard to dental hygiene care. Under current state law, the hygienist can work only while under "direct" supervision of a dentist in order to perform his or her job.
This means that unless the dentist is physically present in the office, the hygienist cannot work. This also means that unless the dentist is physically present in the house, the hygienist cannot provide hygiene services to homebound patients.
I recently sent several letters to the state board office requesting permission to treat homebound patients without direct supervision (the dentist would still need to write a prescription for the patient to be seen by the hygienist). After six months of waiting, I received notice that my request was denied.
Dental hygienists in New Jersey are some of the most highly trained health care professionals employed in the state. We are required to complete two years of full-time training and to pass state clinical and written board exams. We are also required to take continuing education credits to renew our licenses. We are CPR-certified. Our main focus is the detection and prevention of gum disease, which affects more than 70 percent of the adult population. The dental care of a large percentage of homebound patients is often neglected and the cost of transport to a dental office can be prohibitive.
Nurses, home health aides, podiatrists, physical therapists, etc. all can provide in-home services unsupervised. Dental hygienists are just as qualified to provide their services. I?m not asking to do fillings, extractions, or any other service that only a licensed dentist can provide. I just want to do my job in an alternative setting. I have 12 years of dental experience working with rehabilitation center, long-term care facility, and nursing home patients. I have provided hygiene services for homebound patients with the Omobile dentistO physically present in the home. It?s time to expand the role of our dental care professionals and let us provide this desperately needed service.
Questions, comments, or your show of support can be e-mailed to
Old Bridge, New Jersey
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