I’m sure we have all been looking forward to 2021, for many different reasons, but let’s not forget all of the positive outcomes the challenges 2020 brought to us! As a profession, we came together to share evidence-based COVID-19 information, advocated for dental hygienists, released an antiracism statement, attended our first virtual ADHA Annual Conference and House of Delegates, and most importantly, we demonstrated unity and resilience as healthcare professionals! But, we didn’t stop there!
The 2021 Legislative Session began on Monday, January 11th, and there are already over 1,000 bills introduced. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic promises to shape much of thissession, from policy items pursued to the way in which legislative business is conducted. Both chambers have adopted special rules to protect the health and safety of legislators, staff, and the public.
February is Children’s Dental Health month so it is fitting for me to tell you about our children’s oral health program. The First Teeth First Program is a community based program providing services to children 0-5 years of age and expectant mothers at no charge. Services provided include an oral screening, anticipatory guidance, goal setting, and referral and care coordination, provided by a registered dental hygienist and promotora. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the program operated in person at WIC clinics (Women, Infant, and Children), pediatrician’s offices, OBGYN offices and childcares.
Many years ago, when the profession of Dental Hygiene was born in the United States, Dental Therapy was being born in New Zealand. Recently some states have legalized Dental Therapy (and New Zealand has adopted Dental Hygiene!)
When Dental Therapy was started in Australia and New Zealand, the therapists worked in schools on children. They could meet most of the dental needs of children. The services were supported by the government. The Therapists were paid a salary not based on procedures. Adults were cared for in private dental
Recently, AzDHA’s Advocacy Chair, Deb Kappes, attended a 4-hour virtual Board of Dental Examiner’s (BODEX) meeting where discussion took place regarding several agenda items, as you can imagine. To recap some of the discussions, Deb stated the following:
One agenda item discussed was the Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPR) where one decision BODEX made, regarding dental therapy, was to set licensing fees:
Initial, prorated fee: $80 (compared to $55 for DH)
Triennial renewal: $375 (compared to $255 for DH)
Jurisprudence exam: $200 (compared to $100 for DH)
Licensure by credential: $1500 (compared to $1000 for DH)
There was much discussion about reducing all fees due to the ever-growing BODEX fund but ultimately no changes were made relevant to this version of the proposed rules.
Another discussion was in regard to COVID-19 – implementing Governor Ducey’s March 22 Executive Order (EO) Continuity of Work: The board clarified the following:
For those of us renewing this year – we will have an extra six months –
until the end of December. This doesn’t mean you have to wait or that there is any special benefit to wait as our renewal fees this year are waived anyway due to previous legislation. This just allows extra time to get your CEs.
Relevant to CEs – per the Governor’s EO, there will be NO limitations
for online (asynchronous) CEs
Relevant to CPR – they waived the requirement that online courses must include a physical component – just the online course will suffice.
Staff is working on a process to issue provisional licenses per the EO
The board waived the initial, prorated licensing fees and jurisprudence exam fees (except for the $35 online exam fee which actually goes to the exam provider, ProMetrics) for anyone (e.g. 2020 grads) seeking initial licensure in the state as long as the EO is still in effect. That would mean a $155 savings for the 2020 dental hygiene grads who take advantage of the provisional
licensing process. Board staff will use their own judgement regarding those who are already in the process of licensing.
Furthermore, BODEX determined they needed to address whether or not COVID-19 testing can legally be done by dentists and dental hygienists. This would be other than those volunteers or entities covered under the Governor’s recent EO Good Samaritan Order. Sean Murphy, the new ED for AzDA asked for this to be added to a future agenda to discuss and decide.