Dental Hygienists call on Legislature to tackle epidemic of oral
disease among children, seniors & other groups
GLENDALE, Calif., March 1 /U.S.
Newswire/ -- Responding to a recent report about the epidemic of
tooth decay among the state's children, the California Dental
Hygienists' Association (CDHA) today urged the legislature and other
policy makers to adopt measures to address the epidemic of oral
disease among children, seniors and other underserved populations
Specifically, CDHA called on
lawmakers to both support legislation the association is sponsoring
and embrace an array of recommendations proposed by the
Oakland-based non-profit Dental Health Foundation (DHF), which
earlier this month released its report on the dreadful state of
children's oral health.
"The foundation's report is
shocking in that it revealed how California has remained frozen in
time for the past decade," said Lin Sarfaraz, CDHA's president.
"We've seen virtually no improvement in addressing the severe
problem of dental disease throughout our state."
According to DHF's recent report:
-- Tooth decay remains a
significant problem, especially among children. By third grade it
affects almost two-thirds of the children in California.
-- 28 percent -- some 750,000 of
elementary school children -- have untreated tooth decay.
-- 4 percent -- approximately
138,000 -- need urgent dental care because of pain or infection.
-- The oral health of California's
children is substantially worse than national objectives. Of 25
states surveyed, only Arkansas ranked below California in kids'
The study, along with the fact
millions of Californians possess no dental health insurance,
demonstrates the need for substantive new measures.
Along these lines, CDHA applauded
the California State Assembly for passing Assembly Bill 1334
(Salinas), which seeks to free up specially trained dental
hygienists so they can better meet the needs of such underserved
populations as seniors, low- income families and children.
"The Legislature needs to make
dental health a top public health priority," said Sarfaraz. "Our
organization is doing all it can to help accomplish that goal, which
is why passing AB 1334 is so critical."
The bill, now awaiting a committee
hearing in the Senate, would remove a prescription requirement
necessary for Registered Dental Hygienists in Alternative Practice (RDHAP's),
which is a professional category for dental hygienists with advanced
training that allows them to practice autonomously in certain
That requirement has proven to be
a major barrier in two critical ways. First, RDHAP's are trained to
provide dental hygiene services to individuals who don't have access
to a dentist; having a dentist is a prerequisite for receiving a
prescription in the first place. Secondly, dentists sometimes refuse
to write prescriptions for their patient to see an RDHAP.
"It is scandalous that the
California Dental Association continues to protect its dental
monopoly at the expense of those who need care the most," said
Sarfaraz. "AB 1334 is necessary to expand critical access to care
for millions of Californians."
The push for AB 1334 is in keeping
with CDHA's 20-year history as the official voice of the dental
hygiene profession to expand access to care. Historically, CDHA has
supported legislation and other public policies intended to provide
greater autonomy and the independence necessary for dental
hygienists to provide care to those who need it most -- ethnic
minorities, children, seniors and low-income populations.
The California Dental Hygienists'
Association (CDHA) is the authoritative voice of the state's dental
hygiene profession. While registered dental hygienists have worked
in the state for nearly a century, CDHA was established 20 years ago
when two regional associations merged to form a unified professional
group. CDHA represents thousands of dental hygienists throughout the
state and is dedicated to expanding opportunities for the profession
and access to care for all Californians.