Dental hygiene services become more accessible and affordable

    TORONTO, Aug. 30 /CNW/ - The College of Dental Hygienists of Ontario
(CDHO) is celebrating new provincial legislation that comes into legal force
and effect on September 1 granting the public direct access to dental hygiene
services by permitting self-initiation for dental hygienists.
    "On September 1st, amendments to the Dental Hygiene Act, 1991 will be
proclaimed along with a new regulation that will allow dental hygienists to
clean their patient's teeth without an order from a dentist, except in
circumstances where the patient has specific medical conditions. This means
that members of the public will be able to have their teeth cleaned by dental
hygienists in stand-alone dental hygiene clinics, in a range of health care
venues, in addition to conventional dentists' offices," explained Cathie
Mazal-Kuula, President of the CDHO and a practising dental hygienist.
    "This is a major achievement in terms of making important oral care
services more accessible to the public and represents the largest single
advance for the dental hygiene profession since it was granted independent
professional status in 1993," said Fran Richardson, CDHO Registrar.
    According to the regulatory college, dental hygienists currently
practising in a variety of settings including public health have demonstrated,
beyond a doubt, that Ontario-educated dental hygienists are completely
competent to self-initiate teeth cleaning safely and effectively. In fact,
dental hygienists trained in Ontario have been self-initiating in British
Columbia since 2001 and Ontario-trained dental hygienists have been authorized
to do so in Alberta since the Fall of 2006.
    "By allowing dental hygienists to practise to their full abilities in
Ontario, the CDHO is convinced that large components of the population that
had problems obtaining routine oral health care will now be able to do so,"
Ms. Mazal-Kuula stated. "We have in mind the homebound, those who do not have
extended medical/dental insurance, students studying away from home, seniors -
especially those in long-term care, residents of rural, remote and aboriginal
communities, patients with physical or mental disabilities and those with
various dental phobias."
    The CDHO is issuing a Standard of Practice for Self-initiation that will
require dental hygienists who wish to self-initiate teeth cleaning to satisfy
certain conditions and be approved by the CDHO. The CDHO expects to approve
the first group of self-initiating dental hygienists by the end of 2007.
Dental hygienists who are approved to self-initiate will be
publicly-identified on the CDHO web site.
    "The McGuinty government and Minister of Health and Long-Term Care,
George Smitherman in particular, should be congratulated for not settling for
the status quo and pushing for reforms that will improve the health of
Ontarians," stated Ms. Mazal-Kuula. She also acknowledged the support of
specific MPPs, including the Hon. Kathleen Wynne, Minister of Education and
the Hon. John Gerretsen, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and over
four dozen patient advocacy groups, seniors' organizations, health
professional associations and regulatory colleges who worked hard to ensure
the amendments were approved.
    Removal of the 'order' requirement has been sought by the CDHO for nearly
15 years and was recommended by the Health Professions Regulatory Advisory
Council (HPRAC) in 1995. Private member's bills from Donna Cansfield
(Etobicoke-Centre) and Jim Flaherty (Whitby-Oshawa) to implement the HPRAC
recommendations were presented in the last Session of the Ontario Legislature
but died on the Order Paper. The amendments that come into force on
September 1 formed part of Bill 171 ("Health System Improvements Act, 2007")
that was passed by the Ontario Legislature in May and given Royal Assent on
June 4.
    There are currently 9,500 dental hygienists registered to practise in
Ontario. Approximately 80% currently practise in conventional dental offices
as employees or independent contractors because the requirement for a dental
order tied the employment of dental hygienists to dentists.

    The CDHO is the professional regulatory body for the dental hygiene
profession in Ontario under the Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991 and the
Dental Hygiene Act, 1991.

    /NOTE TO PHOTO EDITORS: A photo accompanying this release is available on
    the CNW Photo Network and archived at
    Additional archived images are also available on the CNW Photo Archive
    website at Images are free to accredited
    members of the media/

For further information:

For further information: Fran Richardson, CDHO Registrar, at (416)
961-6234 ext 229

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