Use of dental lasers and state board regulations - what’s the real deal?

This is the third in a series on laser dentistry. The safe and effective use of lasers and the definition of proper education are at the forefront of a number of dental examining boards.

by Gail S. Siminovsky, CAE

This is the third in a series on laser dentistry.The safe and effective use of lasers and the definition of proper education are at the forefront of a number of dental examining boards. As more clinicians use lasers to provide care to their patients, the interest of state licensing boards in learning about the role of dental lasers is also increasing. This is both good and bad. It’s good because we certainly want the knowledge about lasers to increase within dentistry. It’s not good, however, that states begin to legislate how and what clinicians can use to treat patients beyond the scope of dental practice acts. But if state boards determine the need for regulation, ALD is there to help. The Academy of Laser Dentistry, through its Regulatory Affairs Committee, continues to provide assistance to any state regulatory board at the request of members and state agencies alike.

Issues facing state regulatory agencies

The issues facing state regulatory agencies are compelling. First and foremost is the responsibility to protect its citizens. When defining educational standards, state boards must consider mechanisms to assure citizens that educational standards as defined by the profession are being adhered to. The second issue to consider is specifically how state boards will determine proper disclosure, or that a professional review process has been followed as defined by ADA CERP or AGD PACE.

Regulators are most concerned with defining levels of education as they consider whether or not to regulate the licensure of clinicians regarding the safe and effective uses of dental lasers. State regulators themselves want to be better educated prior to drafting any language into their state regulation about demonstrable measures of education.

In the past, one of two scenarios occurred. Either this issue did not come up, or some state boards chose to act without proper knowledge and defined limits on the use of laser devices, mostly by hygienists.

What is ALD’s role?

The Academy of Laser Dentistry believes all providers of dental laser services (dentists, hygienists, dental assistants) should be properly trained in the use of lasers and recommends that laser practitioners complete, at minimum, a Standard Proficiency level of education as described in the Curriculum Guidelines and Standards for Dental Laser Education. The Academy does not endorse any restrictions placed on the use of lasers that do not equally apply to other devices and equipment.

When addressing the issue of which laser procedures should be allowed by providers of dental services, consider first the scope of practice as currently defined in the dental practice act of one’s state of licensure. We agree that practitioners must continue with intense model-specific training provided by each manufacturer, and Standard Proficiency is not that.

If a board chooses to implement a prerequisite for laser use, the Academy recommends that Standard Proficiency be used as the educational standard. Standard Proficiency is the minimum standard of education that practitioners should complete when considering laser use for patient care.

ALD, in its interpretation, defines Standard Proficiency as a laborious process with strict criteria regarding educational objectives, content, and educational outcomes which include multiple wavelengths, multiple devices, and broad-based information.

ALD has a mechanism in place that adheres to professional standards in dentistry. Most importantly ALD provides an unbiased review of course content. One key to doing all of this is separating the professional from the commercial when it comes to standards and the interpretation of those standards.

There is a proliferation of laser “education” available in half-day, multiple-day, and various hourly courses that do not in any way amount to the definition of proficiency that we believe a state board is seeking.

Further, so much of what is available is indeed infomercials or distortions of the available science intended in the end to “sell” a device. We, as a professional standard-setting organization, have a due diligence to provide balanced education by educators who are not working for a company, let alone not fully disclosing those corporate affiliations, including methods of remuneration.

The standards defined in the Curriculum Guidelines and reviewed by the Academy of Laser Dentistry, as an independent organization of professionals representing various stakeholder groups as indicated in ALD’s mission, is the standard we believe state boards are seeking to provide.

What has happened in Nevada?

The Nevada State Board of Dental Examiners charged a working group to seek information about the role of dental laser education, standards, and certification and to provide language to guide the Board in defining minimum proficiency and educational standards for clinicians on the safe and effective uses of dental laser devices.

In December 2005, the Board passed language in Chapter 631 of the Nevada Administrative Code that requires educational criteria of the Curriculum Guidelines and Standards for Dental Laser Education as interpreted by the Academy of Laser Dentistry.

For information on Nevada’s ruling, visit the Web site at http://www.nvdentalboard.org. For information on your own state’s dental scope of practice acts, simply visit the Web site of your state board, and contact the Academy of Laser Dentistry for certification and educational criteria at www.laserdentistry.org.

ALD, like the Nevada State Board, makes decisions to protect the safety of citizens. It is ALD’s privilege to assist state boards as we work hard to represent the needs of the profession relative to dental laser education.

To do that, we must be transparent and devoid of commercial bias. And we are. The Academy of Laser Dentistry stands ready to help you in following these educational standards. This is what we do.

Gail Siminovsky, CAE, is the executive director of the Academy of Laser Dentistry. She is a member of the American Society of Association Executives, Florida Society of Association Executives, American Association of Dental Editors, National Coalition of General Dental Organizations, and National Council of Dental Credentialing Organizations. She may be reached by e-mail at siminovsky@laserdentistry.org.


10 Recent ALD Facts

  • ALD is a not-for-profit independent organization that determines that professional educational standards for the safe use of lasers are met.
  • ALD is internationally recognized as the professional standard setting leader.
  • ALD has no commercial bias.
  • ALD is represented on the ADA Standards Committee on Dental Products Working Group on Dental Lasers (ADA SCDP) and the ADA Standards Committee on Dental Informatics (ADA SCDI).
  • ALD is recognized by the ADA as an affiliated organization and is an ADA CERP Continuing Education Recognized Provider.
  • ALD collaborates with AGD to provide dental laser education and certification.
  • ALD is a member of the National Council of Dental Credentialing Organizations and an active member of the National Coalition of General Dentistry Organizations.
  • ALD plays an integral role in the ANSI Standards with the Laser Institute of America (LIA).
  • ALD is a member of the American Dental Editors Association (ADEA).
  • ALD is in dialogue with the American Dental Education Association (ADEA) to establish a special interest group on lasers.
  • To contact the Academy of Laser Dentistry, visit www.laserdentistry.org or call (954) 346-3776.

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