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Dental Hygiene Services Become More Accessible and Affordable

TORONTO, Aug. 30 – The College of Dental Hygienists of Ontario (CDHO) is celebrating new provincial legislation that comes into legal force and effect on September 1 granting the public direct access to dental hygiene services by permitting self-initiation for dental hygienists.

“On September 1st, amendments to the Dental Hygiene Act, 1991 will be proclaimed along with a new regulation that will allow dental hygienists to clean their patient’s teeth without an order from a dentist, except in circumstances where the patient has specific medical conditions. This means that members of the public will be able to have their teeth cleaned by dental hygienists in stand-alone dental hygiene clinics, in a range of health care venues, in addition to conventional dentists’ offices,” explained Cathie Mazal-Kuula, President of the CDHO and a practising dental hygienist. “This is a major achievement in terms of making important oral care services more accessible to the public and represents the largest single advance for the dental hygiene profession since it was granted independent professional status in 1993,” said Fran Richardson, CDHO Registrar.

According to the regulatory college, dental hygienists currently practising in a variety of settings including public health have demonstrated, beyond a doubt, that Ontario-educated dental hygienists are completely competent to self-initiate teeth cleaning safely and effectively. In fact, dental hygienists trained in Ontario have been self-initiating in British Columbia since 2001 and Ontario-trained dental hygienists have been authorized to do so in Alberta since the Fall of 2006.

“By allowing dental hygienists to practise to their full abilities in Ontario, the CDHO is convinced that large components of the population that had problems obtaining routine oral health care will now be able to do so,” Ms. Mazal-Kuula stated. “We have in mind the homebound, those who do not have extended medical/dental insurance, students studying away from home, seniors – especially those in long-term care, residents of rural, remote and aboriginal communities, patients with physical or mental disabilities and those with various dental phobias.”

The CDHO is issuing a Standard of Practice for Self-initiation that will require dental hygienists who wish to self-initiate teeth cleaning to satisfy certain conditions and be approved by the CDHO. The CDHO expects to approve the first group of self-initiating dental hygienists by the end of 2007. Dental hygienists who are approved to self-initiate will be publicly-identified on the CDHO web site.

“The McGuinty government and Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, George Smitherman in particular, should be congratulated for not settling for the status quo and pushing for reforms that will improve the health of Ontarians,” stated Ms. Mazal-Kuula. She also acknowledged the support of specific MPPs, including the Hon. Kathleen Wynne, Minister of Education and the Hon. John Gerretsen, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and over four dozen patient advocacy groups, seniors’ organizations, health professional associations and regulatory colleges who worked hard to ensure the amendments were approved.

Removal of the ‘order’ requirement has been sought by the CDHO for nearly 15 years and was recommended by the Health Professions Regulatory Advisory Council (HPRAC) in 1995. Private member’s bills from Donna Cansfield (Etobicoke-Centre) and Jim Flaherty (Whitby-Oshawa) to implement the HPRAC recommendations were presented in the last Session of the Ontario Legislature but died on the Order Paper. The amendments that come into force on September 1 formed part of Bill 171 (“Health System Improvements Act, 2007”) that was passed by the Ontario Legislature in May and given Royal Assent on June 4.

There are currently 9,500 dental hygienists registered to practise in Ontario. Approximately 80% currently practise in conventional dental offices as employees or independent contractors because the requirement for a dental order tied the employment of dental hygienists to dentists.

The CDHO is the professional regulatory body for the dental hygiene profession in Ontario under the Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991 and the Dental Hygiene Act, 1991.

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