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CHWS Infographic Shows America All that Dental Hygienists Can and Can't Do

The new CHWS infographic delineates dental hygienist practices, state by state. (Graphic by Center for Health Workforce Studies)

ALBANY, N.Y. (July 21, 2017) -- Oral health workforce researchers at University at Albany’s Center for Health Workforce Studies (CHWS) have released an infographic designed to help policy makers better understand differences in dental hygiene scopes of practice across states.

Scopes of practice for health professionals are defined in states’ laws and regulations, describing allowable services, settings and supervisory requirements. CHWS researchers examined 2014 scope-of-practice parameters for dental hygienists across the 50 states and found that that in states where dental hygiene scope of practice rules were more closely aligned with dental hygiene professional competence, there was a positive and statistically significant association with population oral health.

An article discussing the study, Expanded Scopes of Practice for Dental Hygienists Associated With Improved Oral Health Outcomes for Adults, was published in the December 2016 issue of Health Affairs and was selected as an editor’s pick of the year.

Dental Hygiene variation in practice
Scope of practice is an important consideration for policymakers when identifying strategies to increase the availability of preventive oral health services.

Recognizing the importance of the relationship between dental hygiene scope of practice and state-level oral health outcomes, researchers decided to develop an infographic that could help policy makers compare dental hygiene scopes of practice across states.

Researchers conducted a series of focus groups with dental hygiene leaders across the country to identify the functions and tasks to include in the infographic, which is based on a 2016 assessment of dental hygiene scope of practice across states.

"Policymakers and other stakeholders need tools to help them understand the striking variability in state-to-state dental hygiene scope of practice. Research has demonstrated that broader scopes of practice for dental hygienists are correlated with better oral health outcomes. This infographic depicts that variability." said Margaret Langelier, lead researcher of the study. "The impact of scope of practice is an important consideration for policymakers when identifying strategies to increase the availability of preventive oral health services, particularly for underserved populations."

This work was supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), under the Health Workforce Research Center Cooperative Agreement Program (U81HP27843), to establish an Oral Health Workforce Research Center.

For more information, visit the Oral Health Workforce Research Center.

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