New Oklahoma Law Requires All Dental Assistants to Have Permits
On May 31, in what may spark a trend across the country, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin signed into law a bill that makes Oklahoma the first state in the nation to require all dental assistants to have a permit in order to perform their duties.
Previously, Oklahoma Board of Dentistry regulations stated that “many duties performed by a dental assistant are of a nature which do not require formal training or a permit from the Board in order to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public.” There were only four tasks that were deemed complex enough that dental assistants (with proper training at a formal, Board of Dentistry-approved DA program) needed “expanded duty permits” in order to perform: exposing dental x-rays, coronal polishing/topical fluoride application, placing dental sealants and assisting a dentist or a dental hygienist with the administration of nitrous oxide. Under the new law, these specialized permits, which had cost $10 and was renewable annually for $25, are going away and being replaced by a general dental assistant permit, which costs $50 to $100 and is renewable annually for that same amount.
Can you say ka-ching? One of the bill’s authors, Representative David Derby, stated that the extra cash flow Would allow the state dental board to hire more inspectors. This benefit comes at a time when Oklahoma dentistry is under extreme scrutiny following the case of Tulsa dentist Wayne Harrington, whose improper, unsanitary practices and illegal utilization of dental assistants has led to more than 70 patients contracting hepatitis and HIV. That number could go higher, as as many as 3,000 or more patients have yet to be tested. Executive director of the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry Susan Rogers insists the new law didn’t come about as a reaction to the Harrington incident; it was already in motion before the scandal came to light.
The Oklahoma law highlights the fact that every state has its own requirements for becoming a dental assistant, for remaining a dental assistant and for performing duties as a dental assistant. It’s up to you to research to make sure you’re aware of what those rules and regulations are, because as you can see, they can change at any moment.
(Sources: Tulsa World, Oklahoma Secretary of State, Open States)