Rule Change Expands Preventive Oral Health Care In High Need Areas

Jan 16, 2020

A State Commission has approved a rule change that would allow more children in North Carolina to receive preventive dental care. 

The North Carolina Rules Review Commission gave final approval to Rule 16W at their Thursday meeting in Raleigh. The rule change, which was unanimously approved by the North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners in December, would allow dental hygienist to provide sealants and fluoride treatments to children in communities with limited access to dental care, known as Health Provider Shorage Areas. Prior to the rule change, North Carolina required a dentist to complete an exam before a dental hygienist can deliver preventive services. 

"It eliminates that barrier, it makes it a little more efficient and easier to gain access for those that really often are the ones disproportionately lacking access to prevention," said Dr. Zachary Brian, North Carolina Oral Health Collaborative (NCOHC) Director.

The rule change was co-sponsored by the North Carolina Dental Society and the Foundation for Health Leadership & Innovation's NCOHC.

Tooth decay is one of the most common chronic childhood diseases, especially among low-income populations. In addition to removing regulatory barriers, Brian said the rule change also addresses disparities in access to oral health care in places like Eastern North Carolina, which is one of the most disadvantaged areas of the state in terms of access to dental care. 

"We have a large subset of the state that is disproportionately disadvantaged when it comes to oral health outcome," said Brian. "We need to focus on preventive measures to hopefully stave off issues that are more serious later in life."

North Carolina is now the 40th state in the country to allow a dental hygienists to apply sealants without a prior exam or supervision from a dentist.