CDA objects to dental hygiene committee's proposals

The Dental Hygiene Committee of California (DHCC), created via legislation enacted in 2008, will be undergoing its first legislative “sunset review” over the course of the next year. 

CDA has expressed early concerns about several changes to current law proposed by the committee. Among other things, the changes seek to further separate the DHCC from the Dental Board of California and lessen dentist-hygienist supervision requirements. 

“CDA appreciates the hard work that the Dental Hygiene Committee has done to get up and running since its inception four years ago,” said William L. Marble, DDS, chair of CDA’s Government Affairs Council. “However, while it is very early in the process, we are raising significant objections about the changes the DHCC and CDHA are proposing in this first committee sunset process.”

Sunset review is a process by which the Legislature periodically evaluates every state professional licensing body to determine whether it is carrying out its functions effectively, and ultimately whether it should continue to exist or be modified in some way. It is a yearlong process that begins in the fall of the year prior to the body’s scheduled sunset date, which must be extended via legislation in order for it to continue functioning. The DHCC’s current sunset date is Jan.1, 2015, and it has now submitted its required report to the legislative committees that will be reviewing it next year, the first step in the process.  

The DHCC’s sunset review report, which can be viewed on the committee’s website, contains many details about the committee’s functions, staffing, budget resources, and licensing and enforcement performance. In addition, in response to a standard request from the legislative oversight committees to identify new and emerging issues, the DHCC, along with the CDHA, makes a series of policy recommendations, including:

  1. Changing the name of the committee to the Dental Hygiene Board of California, and removing current language that places the DHCC “within the jurisdiction” of the Dental Board of California;
  2. Naming the sections of law pertaining to dental hygienists the “Dental Hygiene Practice Act,” thereby making it separate and distinct from the Dental Practice Act;
  3. Moving administration of local anesthesia and soft-tissue curettage from direct supervision duties to general supervision duties;
  4. Considering deleting the current requirements for registered dental hygienists in alternative practice (RDHAPs) to obtain a prescription from a dentist or physician in order to continue providing services to new patients after 18 months;
  5. Deleting current law that requires the DHCC to make recommendations to the Dental Board regarding scope of practice issues, and that requires the board to respond in writing to any scope recommendations within 90 days;
  6. Authorizing the committee to explore instituting continued competency requirements for dental hygienists.

“The current structural relationship between the committee and the Dental Board is working well and appropriately reflects the team concept that underlies our dental care delivery system,” said Marble. “The DHCC and CDHA have not demonstrated how these changes would enhance, and not damage, that relationship.” 

The Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee, which oversees the sunset review process, plans to hold a public hearing to discuss issues raised in the report in March 2014. After that, standard procedure calls for the Senate committee, in cooperation with its counterpart Assembly committee, to use the information received to develop a consensus piece of legislation to make any agreed-upon changes to law. Other stakeholder organizations may independently sponsor legislation to pursue desired changes not contained in the sunset review bill.

The CDA Government Affairs Council held a meeting in December and will do so again in January to discuss these issues. It likely will not take a formal position until a bill is introduced following the March committee hearing.   

“We have already begun informing legislators and staff about our concerns and priorities as this process gets under way,” added Marble. “We hope to have a constructive and mutually respectful dialogue with all parties over the next year.

Updated: 12/19/13

Topics: Advocacy