Two states recently changed their scope of practice laws. Legislation in Washington state recognizes dental therapists and South Dakota law now allows nurse practitioners full independent practice authority.

Washington becomes the fifth state to recognize dental therapists as an oral health provider. Other states include Alaska, Maine, Minnesota and Vermont. The new legislation in Washington specifies that dental therapists may perform a limited scope of services on tribal lands, with the aim of increasing access to preventive and basic dental care for the Washington Native population. Alaska and Minnesota also have outreach programs that use dental therapists to provide dental services to large Native American populations.

South Dakota becomes the 22nd state to allow nurse practitioners full independent practice authority. Nurse practitioners may practice independently from a physician after the completion of 1,040 physician supervised practice hours, typically called a transition-to-practice agreement. Nine other states require this type of agreement before practicing without physician supervision. This gives nurse practitioners extensive experience working in supervised settings before they transition into independent practice.

For more information on dental therapists, nurse practitioners and how other states are addressing these issues, please visit the oral health provider page and the nurse practitioner page on this website.