In 2016, Maine enacted a new Dental Practice Act establishing the scope of practice for dental hygienists and dental therapists. The law outlines education and training requirements, prescriptive authorities, and supervision requirements for these and other oral health professions. Maine’s Board of Dental Practice is a state regulatory agency established to protect the public through the regulation of individuals practicing in the dental professions.
The revised statute lists the services and procedures a dental hygienist may perform under either direct or general supervision of a dentist. For example, a dental hygienist may, under direct supervision, irrigate and dry root canals, remove socket dressings, and take cytological smears, and, while under general supervision, prescribe, dispense, or administer anticavity toothpastes, topical gels, or oral rinses.
The law also allows a public health dental hygienist to provide dental hygiene services in a public health setting pursuant to a supervision agreement with a dentist. “Public health setting” is defined to include public and private schools, medical facilities, nursing homes, residential care facilities, mobile units, nonprofits, and community health centers.
A dental hygienist who meets additional educational and experience levels may become an independent practice dental hygienist. As an independent practice hygienist, supervision by a dentist is not required. The hygienist may take and record vital signs of blood pressure, pulse and temperature, apply fluoride to control tooth decay, apply topical anesthetics, and more.
Finally, the law allows for dental hygiene therapists who can provide services in limited practice settings as authorized by a written practice agreement with a licensed dentist. The services a dental hygiene therapist may provide include, but are not limited to, oral health assessments, preparing and placing stainless steel crowns, and providing referrals. Another bill in 2016 (LD 1514) that would have eliminated the direct supervision requirement for dental hygiene therapists passed the legislature but was vetoed by the governor.
For more information and to see the full documents, please visit Maine’s State Profile at: http://scopeofpracticepolicy.org/states/me/.