Teledentistry and Mid-Level Providers
In this practice setting, dental hygienists can reach individuals with little access to professional oral health care services.
Teledentistry is the delivery of dental services through interactive audio, video, or other electronic media for the purpose of diagnosis, consultation, or treatment. This practice setting utilizes off-site dentists to diagnose and plan/coordinate treatment through electronic and communication technologies. Teledentistry can also be used in training opportunities for off-site staff, oral health care professionals, and other medical/childcare providers. This modality encourages collaboration among professionals, facilitates interaction between patients and their providers, enables specialty consultations, and allows for real-time diagnostic examinations.
DENTAL HYGIENE PRACTICE MODELS
Mid-level dental hygienists—like nurse practitioners and physician assistants—can increase productivity, enhance the delivery of appropriate primary health care, and minimize staffing costs. They can also extend care to underserved populations and provide primary care to those already in the delivery system. A mid-level provider’s scope of practice varies depending on provider designation, state credentialing/licensing, and state practice laws. Mid-level providers tend to practice primarily in public health settings, such as state correctional facilities, community health centers, public health clinics, elementary schools, nursing homes, and mobile dental facilities. They are well positioned to use teledentistry in their provision of care. Currently, 37 states allow dental hygienists to initiate patient care in a setting outside of the private dental office without the presence of a dentist. These policies enable dental hygienists to practice in community settings and reach a variety of patient populations. With the addition of teledentistry and mid-level providers to many legislative dockets across the country, the public may soon be able to benefit more fully from dental hygiene providers with a broad range of skills.
From Perspectives on Dental Hygiene, a supplement to Dimensions of Dental Hygiene. November 2014;12(11):36.