Using Registered Dental Hygienists to Promote a School-Based Approach to Dental Public Health

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We examine a strategy for improving oral health in the United States by focusing on low-income children in school-based settings. Vulnerable children often experience cultural, social, economic, structural, and geographic barriers when trying to access dental services in traditional dental office settings. These disparities have been discussed for more than a decade in multiple US Department of Health and Human Services publications. One solution is to revise dental practice acts to allow registered dental hygienists increased scope of services, expanded public health delivery opportunities, and decreased dentist supervision.

We provide examples of how federally qualified health centers have implemented successful school-based dental models within the parameters of two state policies that allow registered dental hygienists varying levels of dentist supervision.

Changes to dental practice acts at the state level allowing registered dental hygienists to practice with limited supervision in community settings, such as schools, may provide vulnerable populations greater access to screening and preventive services. We derive our recommendations from expert opinion.

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