I was reminded that RDHAPs can actually work for dentists in traditional clinical settings. Practically speaking, this does not affect the practice or care of the clinician, but I still wanted to include this for clarity.
There are many clinics through the country, including Indian clinics, federally qualified health clinics, free clinics, and even dental school and dental hygiene schools, where patients can receive dental hygiene care. Since the RDHAP does not need to be overseen by a dentist to practice, they can be hired to work in a variety of settings in an effort to increase access to care.
Among the many skills of every dental hygienist (RDH) and registered dental hygienist in alternative practice (RDHAP) is that of oral health education. Not only can we teach you how to keep your teeth clean (OK, nag about brushing and flossing :-) ), we can train caregivers how to best work with their clients, parents to care for their children's teeth, and give presentations to public groups, professional caregivers, and school children, all with the goal of helping everyone maintain the best oral health possible. Just ask!
I guess to conclude this 5 part series of our scope of practice. If you see a unmet dental hygiene need or feel your community could be improved by connecting with and RDHAP capable of serving your area, use this website as a way to connect with one. Each of us is capable of answering your questions and can either establish a practice or be a resource for you to find an RDHAP to meet your oral health care needs.
Also, please leave a comment if you would like further information.
Sorry it has been so long since I have posted. I was asking a few RDHAPs who have stand-alone dental hygiene practices if they could contribute to this posting. They, of course, are busy, and unable to respond, so here goes. I will do my best to complete this cohesively.
An RDHAP is licensed to provide dental hygiene care to those with limited access to care in the traditional dental office setting. I want to expand a little more about what a person who has "limited access to dental hygiene care" look like. So far we have addressed the first three areas of practice. Free-standing offices are just as they sound, more like a traditional dental office.
RDHAPs can open what are called free-standing dental hygiene practices, just as dentists do. The caveat is that we can only open these practices in Dental Professional Shortage Areas. So, what exactly is a Dental Professional Shortage Area (DPSA)? The government has designated any community with fewer than 1 dentist per 5000 residents to be a DPSA. In some communities the ration can be as low as a ratio of 1 dentist per 4000 residents. At any rate, that is how they decide where we can open practices. But, the next question is, what makes an RDHAP decide he or she would rather do that than open a practice that visits homes, schools, and nursing facilities as we have discussed in parts 1, 2, and 3 of this blog?
Providing dental hygiene care (and dental care, for that matter), can be a very physically challenging business. It can be hard on our bodies and those of our patients. An RDHAP who opens a "brick and mortar" or "free standing" practice can create an reception room, treatment rooms, and restrooms, geared toward receiving and treating the patient in a wheelchair comfortably. Sadly, we also know that patients in some dental offices get very uncomfortable when the patient with a severe disability comes into the dental office. A specially designed RDHAP office can make a patient much more comfortable than trying to squeeze into a small treatment room in a regular dental practice. These practices can be a win-win.
If you have a family member or are caring for someone who needs dental hygiene care and could benefit from having them treated by an RDHAP in his or her practice, we can help you find one.
An RDHAP is licensed to provide dental hygiene care to those with limited access to care in the traditional dental office setting. I want to expand a little more about what a person who has "limited access to dental hygiene care" look like.
Further breaking the list our scope of practice into 4 smaller bits of information, today's post will be on the residential care facility.
This is Part 3 of 4:
The RDHAP can provide dental hygiene care to patients in residential care facilities. What are residential care facilities? The can include nursing homes, assisted living facilities, board and care homes, dementia care facilities, residential homes for those with developmental disabilities, and any group home that meets the daily living needs of the person who has mental, emotional, or physical limitations that require 24-hour care or supervision.
Residents who live in any of these types of situations are those who generally have difficulty getting to the dental office. They may be confined to bed, require a special vehicle to be transported, or possibly constant use of oxygen or fluids. They may be fearful of the outside world, and some may even have a disease or disability that makes going to a public facility hazardous to their health.
These patients commonly do best when they maintain a routine, so getting out and making the trek to the dental office can be a real upheaval in their lives. Having their teeth cleaned in the comfort of their home environment is certainly less stressful for all.
Every patient needs to see a dentist periodically, however. Dentists diagnose and treat dental diseases that an RDHAP cannot. The RDHAP can communicate with the patient’s dentist, share information, and hopefully reduces the anxiety of a visit to the dentist.
If you are concerned about the oral health of a family member or someone under your care, please feel free to contact an RDHAP near you. These professionals may be able to help. The RDHAP commonly contacts the facility management to arrange visits, continually keeping family in the loop.
Residential care facility staff members are very busy and oral health care is among the many procedures they provide during the day. The RDHAP is also able to provide oral health care in-service training for staff.
Elena Francisco, RDHAP, MS has been practicing dental hygiene for over 40 years and has been an RDHAP since 2005.