Background: Today, 97 percent of dental hygienists are female. In 2007, Ontario amended the Dental Hygiene Act to allow hygienists to operate independently of dentists. There are now over 400 independent dental hygienists across Canada.
Registered dental hygienists in most provinces are now authorized by provincial governments to assess a patient’s teeth and provide an array of dental hygiene services without the presence of a dentist.
The Ontario Dental Hygienists Association is currently working to have the Healing Arts and Radiation Protection Act updated. The guiding principle behind the Act is that every dental client in Ontario has the right to expect a high quality x-ray examination with as minimal amount of risk as possible.
A major change recommended is to permit dental hygienists to take and prescribe x-rays without a ‘prescription’ from a dentist. This will ensure that dental hygienists in Ontario can work to their full scope of practice, by fully enabling a comprehensive oral assessment. Under the Act, dental hygienists can own radiography equipment, but they cannot take x-rays without a dentist’s prescription.
Currently, dental hygienists in Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, do not require a ‘prescription’ from a dentist to take an x-ray.
In addition, under current legislation in Ontario, dental hygienists cannot act as Radiation Protection Officers (RPOs), who are responsible for ensuring the x-ray machine is maintained is in safe operating condition. Currently, only members of the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario can be RPOs for a dental facility.
As a result, Ontario law currently restricts dental hygienists from providing comprehensive dental hygiene service through the use of x-rays in settings such as seniors’ homes, community health centres, rural or isolated areas where dentists may be in short supply, and independent dental hygiene offices.
The College of Dental Hygiene Ontario confirms that hygienists are well trained in the use of x-rays as part of assessments, and that radiation hygiene and safety is adequately covered in the dental hygiene radiography program to permit a dental hygienist to become a radiation protection officer.
Modernizing the Healing Arts and Radiation Protection Act will allow Ontario dental hygienists to realize their full potential as professionals in the field of dentistry and provide optimal care to Ontarians.
“Dental Hygienists in Ontario: their changing role and what it means to you”
Healing Arts and Radiation Protection Act (Sections 6 and 9)
“Radiographs in Dental Hygiene Practice” – College of Dental Hygienists of Ontario
Provincial Council of Women 2013 Resolution http://jura123.com/pcwo/showpage.asp
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Business and Professional Women’s Clubs of Ontario in support of the Provincial Council of Women of Ontario and the Ontario Dental Hygienists Association urges the Government of Ontario and the Minister of Health and Long Term Care to open and amend the Healing Arts and Radiation Protection Act to permit registered dental hygienists to prescribe dental x-rays within their scope of practice, and permit registered dental hygienists to be named as Radiation Protection Officers, thus allowing all Ontario registered dental hygienists to own and operate x-ray equipment .
©BPW Ontario www.bpwontario.com