SD hygienists tapped to improve caries rates

Officials in South Dakota are looking to new legislation that expands dental hygienists' duties to help the state improve its caries prevention statistics.

A report released earlier this week by the Pew Center on the States gave South Dakota a D grade with regard to dental sealants and caries prevention. The low grade was partly attributed to severe restrictions on hygienists and the low number of schools with sealant programs, according to a story in the Aberdeen News.

However, in July 2012, a new law took effect that allows South Dakota hygienists to perform routine dental services on patients, including removing plaque or assessing a patient's oral health, without the patients being examined first by a dentist, the story noted.

Hygienists in South Dakota can now provide dental care in schools, nursing facilities, Head Start programs, mobile units, and other settings without an onsite dentist, once they meet experience requirements and are approved by the state dental board.

Six hygienists have been approved for the collaborative agreement, with five more awaiting approval, according to the article.

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