On Wednesday, February 6th, 2019 the Washington State Legislature proposed bills in both the House and Senate that will allow dental assistants to perform dental hygiene procedures with nothing more than a “one-time training.”
Specifically, if these bills pass, dental assistants will be able to do the following:
- Perform dental prophylaxis with supragingival scaling;
- Perform periodontal probing; and
- Perform gross debridement with an ultrasonic device.
While we appreciate all that our dental assistants do, there is a reason hygienists are required to take years of schooling from an accredited program, pass board exams, and earn continuing education credits every year to practice hygiene. To allow assistants to perform the duties listed above with just a one-time training, not only delegitimizes our role as dental hygienists, but it puts patients at risk by allowing untrained individuals to perform procedures currently done by extensively trained hygienists.
Make no mistake, this is an attack on our profession. If these bills pass, doctors will have assistants perform these procedures because it will cost them less to have an assistant do them than a hygienist. This will give doctors justification for paying hygienists less because they can say some of the previous duties of a hygienist are no longer needed. It will also set a precedent that doctors can squeeze hygienists out by allowing less trained and lower paid workers to do our jobs.
WE MUST UNITE AND FIGHT BACK AGAINST THIS!!
What You Can Do
If you are a hygienist licensed in Washington State, contact your State Legislator right now! This bill is moving quickly, so there is no time to wait.
STEP 1: Find Out Who Your State Senator & Representative Is
Go to https://app.leg.wa.gov/districtfinder/ to find out who your State Senator and Representatives are.
STEP 2: Email Your State Senator & Representatives
A list containing the email and phone number of all Washington State Senators & Representatives is here: https://app.leg.wa.gov/rosters/Members
The Washington Dental Hygienists’ Association put together an excellent template to send to your State Senator and Representatives. They encourage you to add any personal experiences you have encountered to express the impact this would have on patient care.
You can use the following template or download here.
Dear (Senator/State Representative Name),
Re: HB 1935 and SB 5833
As your constituent, I urge you to oppose HB 1935 and SB 5833!
HB 1935 and SB 5833 propose language that will allow dental assistants to perform dental hygiene treatment without appropriate education and training.
In order to be licensed in Washington, dental hygienists must graduate from an accredited dental hygiene education program. These programs include rigorous clinical education and training for the treatment and knowledge of oral and systemic diseases and conditions that affect the whole body. Our state dental hygiene practitioners pass clinical and national board exams, and are required to complete annual continuing education throughout their career. These requirements make our practice safe and effective in treating and preventing disease of the mouth and body.
Dental assistants are not required to have any formal training to work in Washington. Nor are they required to pass any exam, or receive continuing education of any kind. HB 1935 and SB 5833 suggests a one-time training for dental assistants to perform serious dental hygiene procedures that aim to detect and prevent disease. Screening and treating oral diseases through periodontal charting, gross debridement with an ultrasonic device and dental prophylaxis procedures are procedures that require a minimum of two clinical years of training with additional education of body systems such as microbiology, immunology and physiology of the human body.
HB 1935 and SB 5833 puts the Washington’s public at risk for improperly diagnosed and treated diseases that are linked to heart attack, strokes, diabetes and Alzheimer’s.
Current practice laws ensure our patients are being treated by well-educated, well-trained oral health professionals through dental hygiene education standards. Protect the public by opposing these bills!
City, State, Zip Code
STEP 3: Express Your Opposition by Commenting on the Bills Directly
The State of Washington allows constituents to comment directly on bills to express opposition. It is critical that hygienists express their opposition directly on the bill so every State Senator and Representative sees it, not just those who represent you.
- For HB 1935, go here: https://app.leg.wa.gov/billsummary?BillNumber=1935&Chamber=House&Year=2019
- For SB 5833, go here: https://app.leg.wa.gov/billsummary?BillNumber=5833&Year=2019
When you go to those pages, click “Comment on this bill” and fill out the form. Make sure you select your position as “Oppose” and you can use the template listed in Step 2 for your comment.
STEP 4: Email & Call the Sponsors of These Bills Directly
Three State Senators and two State Representatives proposed these bills in the Washington State Legislature. Email and call their offices letting them know you oppose these bills. Here is their information:
- Senator Kevin Van De Wege: Kevin.VanDeWege@leg.wa.gov / (360) 786-7646
- Senator Mark Schoesler: Mark.Schoesler@leg.wa.gov / (360) 786-7620
- Senator Joe Nguyen: Joe.Nguyen@leg.wa.gov / (360) 786-7667
- Representative Michelle Caldier: Michelle.Caldier@leg.wa.gov / (360) 786-7802
- Representative Eileen Cody: Eileen.Cody@leg.wa.gov / (360) 786-7978
STEP 5: Share this Information with Every Hygienist You Know!
There is power in numbers. It is important that word gets out about what is happening so our role in dentistry is not diminished and eventually eliminated. Share this page all over social media and encourage hygienists to take the steps listed above to help make our voices heard!