Proposed New Regulations Impacting NJ Dentists and Hygienists

The New Jersey State Board of Dentistry (Board), which licenses and oversees dentists and hygienists in the State, has recently proposed new regulations that will impact how hygienists and dentists practice. 

In addition to reorganizing the regulatory chapter, the Board proposed to add new definitions (e.g., CODA, dental clinic, school setting). The new regulations would also amend and clarify the definitions of “direct” and “general supervision” of a hygienist by a licensed dentist. Under the new rule, direct supervision would mean that “a licensed dentist is physically present in the office or facility at all times during the performance of any act and that such acts are performed pursuant to the licensed dentist’s order, control, and full professional responsibility.” By contrast, general supervision under the new regulation would mean that “a licensed dentist shall provide a written order or protocol and shall maintain control and full professional responsibility for the performance of any act,” but physical presence would not be required.

In line with the amended definitions for the supervision by a dentist, under the proposed regulations, the Board also seeks to clarify which procedures require direct or general supervision of a hygienist by a licensed dentist. Furthermore, because the scope of practice of dental hygienists practicing under general supervision of a licensed dentists differ depending on the setting, the Board proposed to describe the scope of practice under general supervision for each separate setting (dental office/clinic, institution or school setting). For example, under general supervision, a dental hygienist can perform twenty four procedures in a dental office/clinic but only twelve procedures in an institution.

The proposed rule also addressed bleaching systems. Being concerned about the possible damage in-office activated bleaching systems may cause, the Board proposed that hygienists may only use such systems under the direct supervision of a licensed dentist.

Other new regulations proposed include a provision that a dentist may require direct supervision of a hygienist in his or her dental office (in his or her sole discretion and irrespective of the regulations); a prohibition on independent dental hygienist practice; clarifying that a dentist may supervise a total of three licensed dental hygienist at one time in any setting; and establishing a requirement for an emergency protocol for each dental setting where there is patient contact.

The Board comment period for the proposed rule closed on February 19, 2016 and the Board is currently reviewing the comments prior to finalizing the regulations. New Jersey dentists and dental hygienist should become familiar with the proposed regulations and, upon publication, the final rule. Dentists should also evaluate whether changes to their dental practice may be required when the new rule is finalized.

Update: The New Jersey State Board of Dentistry announced in a July 18, 2016 New Jersey Register its adoption of the new rule which, among other things, amended the scope of practice of dental hygienists under general supervision in a dental office or dental clinic, in an institution, or a school setting.

If you have questions regarding the proposed rules or have other health care related inquiry, please contact our office