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Why Dental Hygienist Give The Best Injections

Recently there was a statement in the news regarding the education of dental hygienists as not being qualified enough to do more than “just scrape teeth”. If you are in the dental hygiene field or have any understanding of the rigors of the dental hygiene educational journey, you already know how incorrect that statement is.

Unfortunately, this statement does come up in the media occasionally. Every single time a state brings forward the expansion of the dental hygiene scope of practice, the educational standards of hygienists fall under scrutiny. Especially regarding the ability of hygienists administering local anesthesia.

While there are only a handful of states in which RDH’s cannot administer anesthesia there are several states with strict restrictions of what kind of injections can be perform and if a doctor must be on premises. However, there are states like Oregon, in which hygienists have been administering local anesthesia (blocks too) under general supervision since 1975. While in states like New York, a hygienist can only administer infiltrations. By the way, a big congratulations to North Carolina to become the most recent state to join the ranks.

As the dental hygiene profession grows and expands its role as a primary health care provider, now is a good time to review the education dental hygienists receive in the field of local anesthesia.

Prior to even entering a dental hygiene program, students must complete several pre-requisite courses. Several of which focus on the sciences of chemistry and human anatomy. Once in the dental hygiene program, students have a deep and detailed anatomical overview of the head and neck region, pharmacology, ethics, and medical emergencies. Plus, the pain management course itself is robust with educational content. It typically covers neurophysiology, pharmacology of local anesthesia, another review of anatomical features, another review of medical history and complications which may arise, safety standards for the anesthesia process, calculating proper dosage, injection techniques, and how to accurately document the entire procedure. When students are learning these injections, they perform them several times on student partners and patients all under the direct supervision of the educator. Learning how to give injections in a competent manner alleviating the need for multiple injections and increasing patient comfort. Did I mention that students have anywhere from 60-80 hours of education just on this one topic!

Most everyone who reads this is probably a dental hygienist and already understand this. I know I am speaking to the choir. So, my friends I encourage you to sing loud!

Stand up for your education, stand up for your profession. If you are someone who doesn’t like to give injections, that’s ok! I encourage you to honor the education you received and support those who do want to administer those injections. Remember, there are a lot of general dentists who are allowed to extract teeth, perform root canals, treat children, and do ortho (just to name a few), but don’t do it for a variety of reasons. But they do support their profession because this was part of their educational standard.

There are so many wonderful things we can do for our patients. Providing proper pain management is one of them. It’s a gift of comfort we can give them and allows us to perform our best work. Celebrate your education and go Hit Your Best Shot!



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