Maryland improves access to dental care
Article Thumbnail ImageApril 29, 2008 -- Maryland hygienists will be able to treat patients without dentist supervision under legislation passed this month in Maryland.
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The Maryland Legislature also allocated more than $16 million to fund other measures aimed at improving dental care in the state.

The new rules will go into effect October 1, 2008.

Currently, public facilities needed to file a waiver with the Maryland State Board of Dental Examiners to allow dental hygienists to perform dental hygiene on a patient without the dentist first seeing the patient, wrote Stacey Chappell, governmental affairs manager at the American Dental Hygienists' Association, in an e-mail to DrBicuspid.com.

The new legislation allows hygienists to perform certain tasks in a public setting without the waiver. Some of the public places include:

  • Dental facilities owned and operated by federal, state, or local governments
  • Public health department or schools
  • Health facilities licensed by the public health department
  • State-licensed Head Start or Early Head Start programs

The tasks include

  • Doing a preliminary dental exam
  • Performing a complete prophylaxis, including the removal of deposit, accretion, or stain from the surface of a tooth, or a restoration
  • Polishing a tooth or restoration
  • Charting cavities, restorations, missing teeth, periodontal conditions, and other features observed during the preliminary examination, prophylaxis, or polishing
  • Applying a medicinal agent to a tooth for a prophylactic purpose
  • Taking a dental X-ray
  • Applying sealants or fluoride agents

The state budget also allocated millions of dollars to increase Medicaid reimbursement rates ($14 million), fund new dental clinics in Southern Maryland and on the Upper Eastern Shore ($1.4 million), and establish a mobile school-based dental services program ($700,000).