CARY— The North Carolina Oral Health Collaborative (NCOHC), a program of the Foundation for Heath Leadership & Innovation (FHLI), announced today that the North Carolina Rules Review Commission has given its final approval of an important rule change that will open doors for access to quality, preventive oral health care for the state’s most underserved.
The rule change — unanimously approved of by the North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners on December 13, 2019 — will allow dental hygienists to provide preventive services such as sealants and fluoride treatments to children in high-need settings without a dentist’s prior exam.
“This is a critical step toward improving access to oral health care for North Carolina’s most vulnerable populations,” said Dr. Zachary Brian, director of NCOHC. “To address the oral health crisis in our state, we must reduce the regulatory burdens that prevent greater access to quality oral health care. This rule change does just that, and we are thrilled to see it pass this final step to become law.”
Increased access to oral health preventive measures is paramount when considering that tooth decay is the single most common chronic childhood disease, disproportionately affecting low-income populations. Nationwide, roughly 50 percent of children in low-income families experience tooth decay, and dental disease is responsible for a collective 51 million hours of school missed each year.
Without the requirement for a prior exam by a dentist, dental hygienists can offer sealants in alternative settings like schools or after-school clinics more efficiently. School oral health programs, in particular, are very effective methods for reaching children who would otherwise not see a private dentist.
In 39 states across the country, dental hygienists can apply dental sealants without a prior exam or supervision from a dentist. This procedure is within the clinical training of a hygienist. However, in states like North Carolina, regulatory barriers hinder access to and delivery of these preventive procedures.
Co-sponsored by NCOHC and the North Carolina Dental Society, the rule change eliminates this regulatory obstacle, increasing access to preventive oral health care services for North Carolina’s most vulnerable populations.
About FHLI’s North Carolina Oral Health Collaborative
The North Carolina Oral Health Collaborative, a program of the Foundation for Health Leadership & Innovation, works to advance systems change, improving the overall health and well-being of all North Carolinians by increasing access and equity to oral health care. NCOHC advocates seek to influence policy at a statewide level, and through collaboration, listening, and knowledge-sharing, NCOHC works to provide maximum impact in achieving optimal oral health care to all North Carolina communities.
For more information, contact:
Marni Schribman, Director of Communications & Public Relations
Foundation for Health Leadership & Innovation