The Rising Tide of Change
The expansion of the dental hygienist’s scope of practice through the introduction of the midlevel practitioner is reshaping the profession for the 21st century.
The United States oral health care delivery system is on the cusp of landmark change. The days of private practice settings serving as the primary outlet for oral health care are giving way to new workforce models. In light of the tremendous unmet need for oral health services among a wide range of populations and mounting evidence of the oral-systemic health link, new and innovative approaches need to be examined in order to address the nation’s oral health care needs. A significant element in the effort to improve access to care is the legislative movement. Many states are considering bills to expand the dental hygienist’s scope of practice, adjust supervision requirements for dental hygienists, or add a member—the midlevel practitioner—to the dental team. Dental hygienists are highly trained and extensively educated in the prevention and treatment of oral disease. These professionals can make a dramatic difference in improving access to care in areas where oral health care services are desperately needed.
Perspectives on the Midlevel Practitioner is designed to shed light on the forces contributing to the transformation of the dental hygiene profession. This journal takes an in-depth look at these key influencers of change: legislative aspects of expanding dental hygiene’s scope of practice, introduction of numerous midlevel practitioner models, necessary changes in education, organizations involved in this transformation, and innovative practice settings. The conclusion focuses on incorporating humanism into the oral health care delivery system.
The profession of dental hygiene is charged with staying in front of proposed changes to the oral health care delivery system. It is our hope that Perspectives will provide you with the information you need to stay abreast of this rapidly changing arena.
From Perspectives on the Midlevel Practitioner, a supplement to Dimensions of Dental Hygiene. October 2015;12(10):8.