Dentists, hygienists have clear-cut responsibilities

Jan. 1, 1998
After having read many articles that deal with hygienists practicing independently of dentists, I have had one overriding thought. Diagnosis is the cornerstone to any treatment. Hygienists are able to provide a valuable service, as prescribed by the dentist. Opticians, medical technologists and physical therapists provide treatment for patients only under the auspices of a physician who has diagnosed the problem and rendered an appropriate prescription. None of the above-mentioned providers woul

After having read many articles that deal with hygienists practicing independently of dentists, I have had one overriding thought. Diagnosis is the cornerstone to any treatment. Hygienists are able to provide a valuable service, as prescribed by the dentist. Opticians, medical technologists and physical therapists provide treatment for patients only under the auspices of a physician who has diagnosed the problem and rendered an appropriate prescription. None of the above-mentioned providers would think for a moment that it is within his/her scope to determine what type of lenses the patient needs, what blood tests are to be run and what type and how long therapy should be provided. Patients are referred to these facilities for treatment in a manner that has been decided by the patient and the physician. Patients return for continued evaluation, and the relationship between the patient and the physician is retained.

In this same manner, patients could get their teeth cleaned in a hygienist`s office after a thorough clinical and radiographic examination in a dentist`s office. The dentist would determine the type of cleaning and the frequency. The dentist would write an appropriate prescription for prophylaxis until the next scheduled exam. However, if a dentist would like to provide this service in his office, it would be his prerogative.

It would be irresponsible for hygienists to treat patients on their own accord. It is beyond the scope of their education and gives the wrong impression to our patients. We must not underestimate that when a patient hears "everything looks OK," he will interpret that to mean "everything is OK." It is our responsibility to provide patients with the best dentistry has to offer, and it begins with a proper diagnosis from a qualified dentist.

For hygienists wanting to render diagnosis and prescribe treatment, it seems that furthering their education is in order.

Lesley T. M. Baratz, DMD, FAGD

Maple Shade, NJ

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