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Dr. Cranham: Should Dental Hygienists Go Solo?

May 22nd, 2008 · No Comments

Canada now allows dental hygienists to set up independent practice. The same issue has been presented in the US in the past. I believe that hygienists play an imperative role in oral health, and they do not need a dentist hanging over their shoulder to tell them how to clean teeth. However, in my understanding, the purpose of separating hygiene from the dental practice is to lower the consumer cost. Problem is, when a hygienist goes solo, overhead increases – which in turn is transferred to the patient. This negates the original intent. Furthermore, the hygienist is an essential member of the dental practice team, as are the assistants, administrative staff, and the dentist. Together, this team can comprehensively help patients and attend to all of their oral health concerns. Another problem that might exist is that patients may be under the illusion that they can have their overall oral health taken care of in a hygiene practice, just as they would in a dental office. Issues such as caries, bite problems, tooth wear, and replacing old dental work can’t be taken care of by a hygienist. I appreciate what the Canadian hygienists are trying to do, and I believe that capability is not the issue. The outlying problems are the primary concern and might be the reason that Canadian hygiene practices are suffering.

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