Public health hygienists can now practice in Ill.

Public health dental hygienists in Illinois can now provide basic dental care to at-risk communities in the state.

The legislation, bill HB0500, which went into effect on January 1, defines a public health dental hygienists as "a hygienist who holds a valid license to practice in the state, has two years of full-time clinical experience or an equivalent of 4,000 hours of clinical experience and has completed 72 hours of additional coursework in areas specific to public health dentistry."

It limits these hygienists to practice in public health settings, including the following:

  • Federally qualified health centers
  • Federal, state, or local public health facilities
  • Head Start
  • Supplemental nutrition program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) facilities
  • Certified school-based health centers or school-based oral health programs

The law also requires public dental hygienists to have the supervision and written agreement of a licensed dentist. These oral health practitioners will be able to perform basic dental care, such as applying sealants, on patients who haven't first visited a dentist if they are eligible for Medicaid or are uninsured and live in a household that is below 200% of the federal poverty level. Certain procedures, such as coronal scaling, require patients to be younger than age 12.

"Healthy teeth are so important to anyone's quality of life," stated Illinois Sen. Bill Haine (D-Alton) in a press release. "This measure is a major expansion to access preventive care -- especially for at risk children."

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