Nova Scotian Act Means Better Access To Oral Health Care

Armen Hareyan's picture

Nova Scotians can look forward to more choice and better access to preventative oral health care thanks to proposed legislation introduced by Health Minister Chris d'Entremont.

The proposed Dental Hygienists Act will allow Nova Scotia's dental hygienists to perform a greater range of preventative dental-care duties and to practice in independent settings.

"We are looking for, and finding, innovative ways to ensure all Nova Scotians have access to the health-care services they need and deserve," said Mr. d'Entremont. "This act is particularly good news for seniors or Nova Scotians with mobility challenges. It's one more creative way we're using the professionals and resources we have to our best advantage."

Under the proposed legislation, dental hygienists will have greater autonomy, allowing them to set up free-standing dental-hygiene clinics and practice independent of dentists. Dental hygienists will be able to deliver preventative dental-care services in non-traditional locations such as long-term care facilities. It will help improve access to dental hygiene services, particularly among under-served members of Nova Scotia's population.


The act will also allow dental hygienists to independently perform more dental-care duties, including teeth scaling and root planing, provided they have completed additional training and no contra-indications are present in the patient.

Under the act, dental hygienists will be self-regulating. Like many other health-care professionals, including dentists, doctors and nurses, they will be regulated by, and accountable to, their professional college. The legislation will regulate the practice of dental hygienists by ensuring practice standards are established and maintained. The act will also establish a complaints and discipline process to enforce the standards and requirements, and deal with any concerns from the public.

About 600 licensed dental hygienists are members of the Nova Scotia Dental Hygienists Association. The association has been working closely with the Department of Health to introduce the legislation.

"This legislation removes the last barrier to the independent growth of our profession and increases access to good oral health for all Nova Scotians," said Sue MacIntosh, chair of the legislative committee for the association. "We look forward to joining the ranks of other dental hygienists across the country already able to provide these services to Canadians."

Dental hygienists in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec already work under similar independent models.

This fall, the province will also introduce amendments to two health-care acts. The first will correct a drafting error in the Hospitals Act, related to the process under which medical records are released. The second bill amends the Medical Act to ensure investigative and disciplinary materials in the records of the College of Physicians and Surgeons remain confidential.