Basic oral health is an important determinant of overall health, yet access remains a challenge for many Americans. Dental hygienists can play a critical role in improving access to high-quality services, especially for underserved or vulnerable populations, according to a new paper released by the National Governors Association (NGA).

The Role of Dental Hygienists in Providing Access to Oral Health Care summarizes various policies governing the role of dental hygienists and examines alternative models and practices from states.

To increase access to basic oral health, some states have explored policies that would permit and even encourage dental hygienists to practice outside dentists’ offices. Specifically, states have looked into altering supervision or reimbursement rules, as well as creating professional certifications for advanced-practice dental hygienists. Thus far, studies of pilot programs have shown safe and effective outcomes.

To learn more about the NGA Center for Best Practices Health Division, please visit www.nga.org/cms/center/health.