Oklahoma dental assistants may need permits

Dental assistants in Oklahoma may soon be required to have permits.While it’s true that dental assistants report to the dentists in whose offices they work, recent revelations in Oklahoma about the use of unsanitary equipment may soon lead to the Sooner State requiring all dental assistants to have permits.1

The office of Dr. W. Scott Harrington was found to have poor infection-control procedures and to be using unsanitary equipment, potentially exposing more than 7,000 patients to HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C, according to Tulsa World. The story gained quite a bit of media attention because the situation is so rare.2

In response to allegations that Harrington’s dental assistants were performing IV sedations – a practice that is illegal in Oklahoma – state lawmakers have proposed and passed a bill that will create the first oral surgery dental assistant permit in the country, according to Tulsa World.

Currently, the state of Oklahoma requires dental assistants to obtain permits to operate x-ray equipment and perform dental radiographic procedures. This permit can be obtained from the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry.3

Susan Rogers, executive director of the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry, predicts that the state’s move to require permits for its dental assistants working in operatory areas is the beginning of a new national trend.4

“You want someone who is trained to perform a procedure actually performing that procedure,” Rogers told DentistryIQ.com. “I think we’ll be doing more of a lockdown on dental assistants who are in the operatory area. You may see dental assistants coming to get permits before they can be in operatory.”

As for Oklahoma’s new permit requirement, it is currently awaiting the signature of Gov. Mary Fallin. Fallin has neither signed nor vetoed the bill, and said her office is putting it through the normal review process, according to Tulsa World.

1 Muchmore, Shannon, Tulsa World, ‘Oklahoma bill would create first dental assistant permit in the nation,’ May 31, 2013 – www.tulsaworld.com/article.aspx/Oklahoma_bill_would_create_first_dental_assistant_permit/20130531_11_A1_Abillt11116
2 Daily Mail, ‘Dentist who ‘put thousands at risk of HIV and Hepatitis’ is found hiding out at his holiday home in Arizona,’ April 1, 2013 – www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2302384/Dr-W-Scott-Harrington-Dirty-dentist-slams-door-face-ABC-reporter-hes-hiding-Arizona.html
3 The DALE Foundation, ‘Oklahoma Dental Assistant Requirements,’ 2013 – www.dalefoundation.org/resources-and-state-requirements/State-Dental-Assistant-Requirements/Oklahoma
4 Henry, Kevin, DentistryIQ.com, ‘Oklahoma’s impact on American dentistry,’ 2013 – www.dentistryiq.com/articles/proofs/print/volume-96/issue-5/feature/oklahoma-s-impact-on-american-dentistry.html