Expanding Access to Care with Scope of Practice

Moore J, Goodwin N. Expanding Access to Care with Scope of Practice. Dimensions of Dental Hygiene. 2019; 17(3):12-14.

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There has been longstanding concern about uneven access to oral health services, particularly for some groups, including children, the elderly, racial/ethnic minorities, and the economically disadvantaged.  Stakeholders with an interest in expanding access to care and improving the oral health status of the underserved are driving efforts to identify and adopt innovative strategies to improve population oral health. Dental hygienists (DHs), who are considered experts in prevention education and services, often play important roles in programs that improve access to needed oral health services

State-based laws and regulations define legal scopes of practice (SOP) for health professionals within a state. This contributes to variation in what DHs in different states are legally allowed to do. It is challenging to systematically describe these SOP differences, assess their impacts on population oral health and translate this into policy-relevant information. With support from HRSA’s National Center for Health Workforce Analysis, researchers at the Oral Health Workforce Research Center (OHWRC), Center for Health Workforce Studies (CHWS), developed a professional practice index to describe DH SOP across states and studied impacts of this variation on state oral health outcomes. Subsequently, researchers developed an infographic based on this work to depict state-level variation in DH SOP to help oral health advocacy groups, policy makers and other stakeholders better understand these issues.