Hygienists' association seeking practice changes

Legislative proposals from the California Dental Hygienists’ Association (CDHA) that would significantly change the supervision and practice of hygienists’ were released at a December meeting of the Dental Hygiene Committee of California (DHCC), and they appear very similar to the changes proposed by CDHA earlier this year that CDA strongly opposed.

While not in bill form yet, the proposed statutory changes CDHA plans to pursue in 2015 include:

  • Allow RDHs to perform soft-tissue curettage, administration of local anesthetic and administration of nitrous oxide-oxygen analgesia under general supervision.
  • Authorize RDHs to prescribe topical agents such as fluoride products and chlorhexidine gluconate (CHX) rinse. Currently, RDHs administer and dispense these preventive agents, but do not prescribe them.
  • Provide that if an RDHAP has an established dental hygiene practice in a designated dentally underserved area and that area loses its designation as underserved, the RDHAP may continue the dental hygiene practice.
  • Require insurance companies to reimburse RDHAPs for dental hygiene care legally provided and covered by the insurance. The same services are already reimbursable when provided by RDHs and dentists in an office setting.
  • Delete the prescription requirement for dental hygiene services provided by the RDHAP.
  • Amend the Business & Professions Code to clarify that RDHAPs are authorized to establish corporations.
  • Clarify that the DHCC is under the oversight of the Department of Consumer Affairs.

The DHCC approved a motion at its December meeting to support these policy concepts and will revisit them as legislative language is developed. 

These issues arose during DHCC’s legislative sunset review process this year, whereby the Legislature conducted a formal evaluation of the regulatory body to assess performance and determine whether any changes were needed. CDA advocated strongly against these proposals as unwarranted and the Legislature, which did not consider them appropriate for the sunset review process, rejected them.

CDA anticipated that these proposals could subsequently arise in separate legislation. CDA is working to gather more information on these efforts and will keep members informed through the Update and cda.org.