Reconnecting Practicing Hygienists with the Nation's Leading Educators and Researchers.

A Time to Celebrate

Every year at this time, our thoughts naturally turn to what’s happened over the past 12 months.

Every year at this time, our thoughts naturally turn to what’s happened over the past 12 months. Good, bad, fun, sad—the events that shaped our lives are top-of-mind as we plan for the new year ahead. Professional achievements that shape our practice of dental hygiene are also significant. And 2019 has truly been a banner year! Dental therapy legislation is advancing across the country, along with other bills that expand our scope of practice. Following are a few highlights. While this list is not comprehensive, it provides insight on how our profession is evolving and expanding:

  • In Arizona, a bill was passed that allows dental hygienists to practice in hospital settings under the general supervision of a physician. The bill also allows affiliated practice dental hygienists to supervise dental assistants. In addition, Arizona passed legislation that recognizes professional licenses from any other state, thus becoming the first state in the country to do so.
  • Maryland passed legislation that opens up dental hygiene practice to medical offices, group homes, and adult care facilities. Similarly, Vermont now allows expanded practice settings for dental hygienists, including nursing homes, long-term care facilities, schools, and hospitals.
  • Tennessee enacted a new law that gives dental hygienists prescriptive ability. They can prescribe fluoride agents, topical anesthetic agents, and local oral antimicrobials under the general supervision of a dentist.

An additional change to our profession took place recently: the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) for dental hygiene was revised.1 Numerous federal agencies use the SOC to determine similarities among occupations, such as educational levels, skills, and duties. We were previously classified as “Health Technologists and Technicians,” connoting more of a supporting role in health care. Contrast that classification with the new one, “Healthcare Diagnosing or Treating Practitioners.” The descriptor for our profession is now “Administer oral hygiene care to patients. Assess patient oral hygiene problems or needs and maintain health records. Advise patients on oral health maintenance and disease prevention. May provide advanced care such as providing fluoride treatment or administering topical anesthesia.”2


Our profession falls in the same subclassification as naturopathic physicians, licensed acupuncturists, and homeopathic doctors. This is a giant leap for our profession in terms of independence and recognition of our skill level. While the SOC for dental hygiene was revised in 2018, it’s something to celebrate as we review advances in our profession.

None of these positive occurrences happen in a vacuum. Your state and national dental hygiene associations work tirelessly to make change happen, and they have been heavily involved in these advancements. While positive change seems slow at times, it is occurring, and that is something to celebrate. Happy holidays from all of us at Dimensions of Dental Hygiene!

Jill Rethman, RDH, BA
Editor in Chief
[email protected]


  1. American Dental Hygienists’ Association. Advocacy. Available Accessed November 18, 2019.
  2. United States Department of Labor. Standard Occupational Classification. Available Accessed November 18, 2019.

From Dimensions of Dental Hygiene. December 2019;17(11):6.

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