Tenn. law expands dental hygienists' duties

Tennessee now allows licensed dental hygienists to practice under the supervision of a registered dentist in authorized public health programs, according to a new law signed April 30 by Gov. Bill Haslam.

SB 3269 authorizes licensed dental hygienists to engage in the provision of preventive dental care in nursing homes, skilled care facilities, nonprofit clinics, and public health programs if all of the following requirements are met:

  • The dental hygienist has at least one year, full-time, or an equivalent amount of experience practicing dental hygiene.
  • The dental hygienist complies with written protocols for emergencies that the supervising dentist establishes.
  • The supervising dentist examined the patient not more than seven months prior to the date the dental hygienist provides the services.
  • The dental hygienist provides dental hygiene services to the patient in accordance with a written treatment plan developed by the supervising dentist for the patient.
  • The patient is notified in advance of the appointment that the supervising dentist will be absent from the location and that the dental hygienist cannot diagnose the patient's dental health care status.
  • The legislation prohibits dentists from entering into a written protocol with more than three dental hygienists at one time; likewise, no hygienist may be engaged in a written protocol with more than three dentists at any one time.
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