Dental Practice Acts: How Often Should Dental Hygienists Review Them?

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Questions abound on social media regarding what is allowed to occur in the dental office, ranging from “Can assistants polish?” to “When the dentist is out of the office, can hygienists see patients who have not had an exam in 12 months? “Unfortunately, there is not one right answer. The answer depends on the state in which the situation is occurring.

State dental practice acts differ and are the only place you can get a clear and accurate answer to these questions. If you ask these questions in a social media group, you may receive inaccurate information that could lead to you inadvertently doing something that could cost you a fine or, worse, your license.

It is Your Duty to Know Your State’s Dental Practice Act

Before any dental hygienist can be licensed, they must successfully complete a jurisprudence exam. This exam is state-specific and covers the information found in your state practice act. As someone who is licensed in three states, I can assure you that state practice acts are very different.

Important information that is found in your state practice act includes, but is not limited to, the following:1

  • Requirements for licensure
  • Grounds for revocation and/or suspension of one’s license
  • Grounds for disciplinary action
  • Requirements for continuing education
  • Duties delegated to dental hygienists and auxiliaries
  • Infection control regulations
  • Requirements for persons exposing dental radiographs
  • Registration of 501(c)
  • Supervision and practice of dental hygienists

How Often Should You Read Your State’s Dental Practice Act?

It is important to know how often your state dental board meets. Depending on how often the board meets will determine how often you should review your state dental practice act. For example, I’m licensed in Florida, Louisiana, and Alabama. The Florida dental board and Louisiana Dental Board meet four times a year, while the Alabama Board of Examiners meets monthly.2-4

Therefore, I need to review the Alabama dental practice act more frequently than the Florida or Louisiana dental practice act. I can’t possibly know all the details of every state practice act, but I will share a few differences in the ones I am required to know.

  • Alabama license renewal is annual, while Florida and Louisiana are biannual.
  • Alabama requires a minimum of one hour of continuing education on infection control every two years. Florida requires two hours in the prevention of medical errors every two years.5,6
  • Supervision varies wildly as well. Florida and Louisiana allow for general supervision for a prophy, while all dental hygiene tasks in Alabama are under direct supervision.1,7,8
  • Louisiana allows eight of the 20 CEUs (bi-annually) to be attained online or via correspondence. Alabama allows six of the required 12 CEUs (annually) to be attained through online courses, while Florida allows all CEUs 24 (bi-annually) to be attained through self-study/online courses.1,7,8

The State’s Dental Practice Act is as Important as Taking CE courses

As I’m sure you have deduced, knowing the dental practice act of any state you choose to be licensed in is imperative. Therefore when moving to a new state, you need to review and learn the dental practice act of that state. Not only will it help you when practicing, but you will need to successfully complete a jurisprudence test in order to be licensed.

It is your responsibility to follow your state’s dental practice act. Relying on others to provide you with the proper information is a liability that you should consider before you take the advice of others. Signing up for emails to receive updates from your state’s dental board will help keep you abreast of changes. It is encouraged to keep your email address updated with your state board and make sure emails from the board do not land in your spam or junk folder. However, these emails do not always give all the information, so you should review the changes by going directly to the source. For example, when Florida added the requirement for human trafficking CE, the email did not give details regarding how often a course in human trafficking would be required. However, it was clearly stated in the updated version of the Florida dental practice act.

Knowing your state laws and regulations is as important as knowing the most current evidence-based practices and protocols for your patients. Just as you regularly take continuing education courses to keep practicing with the best evidence, you should also take the time to continue to refresh your memory and stay aware of changes made to your state’s dental practice act.

For anyone moving or needing an answer to a question that can be found in the state dental practice act, click the state below.

Before you leave, check out the Today’s RDH self-study CE courses. All courses are peer-reviewed and non-sponsored to focus solely on high-quality education. Click here now.

Listen to the Today’s RDH Dental Hygiene Podcast Below:


  1. Alabama Dental Practice Act Alabama State Code. (2022). Board of Dental Examiners of Alabama.
  2. Meeting Information. (2022). Florida Board of Dentistry.
  3. Meetings and Minutes. (2022). Louisiana State Board of Dentistry.
  4. 2022 Board Meeting Dates. (2022). Board of Dental Examiners of Alabama.
  5. Board of Dental Examiners of Alabama Administrative Rule 270-x-4-.04: Mandatory Continuing Education for Dentists and Dental Hygienists. (2022). Board of Dental Examiners of Alabama.
  6. Dental Hygienist. (2022). Florida Board of Dentistry.
  7. The 2022 Florida Statutes. (2022). Department of Health: Board of Dentistry Division of Medical Quality Assurance.
  8. Louisiana Dental Practice Act: Title 37-Professions and Occupations. (2018). Louisiana State Board of Dentistry.