Dental assistant licensure clears first round

Nebraska dental assistants would have the option of becoming licensed under a bill given first-round approval Feb. 21.

Sen. Mark Kolterman

Seward Sen. Mark Kolterman, sponsor of LB18, said the bill is essentially the same as a measure he introduced in 2016, which was the result of years of discussions among dentists, hygienists and others. That bill advanced from committee with strong support, he said, but the Legislature ran out of time to take action on it during floor debate.

LB18 would create a new category of licensed dental assistant. Licensure would be optional under the bill, which also would create the position of expanded function dental assistant.

Kolterman said the bill would improve access to oral health care in Nebraska, particularly in rural areas, by allowing dentists to delegate some functions of their practice and freeing them to concentrate on more complex procedures.

“The goal is to create safe and quality care at the least cost and to be able to allow Medicaid providers the ability to appropriately delegate functions,” he said.

Bellevue Sen. Sue Crawford supported the bill, saying it would allow dental professionals to start on a career path and advance their skills and salaries through additional credentialing.

“It’s really an expansion of career opportunities,” she said, especially in rural areas of the state.

Under the bill, a licensed dental assistant applicant must be a graduate of an accredited dental assisting program or have performed a minimum of 1,500 hours of dental assisting. Passage of an exam and completion of continuing education also would be required.

A licensed dental assistant would be authorized, under the indirect supervision of a licensed dentist, to:
• perform coronal polishing;
• take dental impressions and x-rays; and
• monitor and administer nitrous oxide analgesia.

In addition to creating the position of licensed dental assistant, the bill would provide the option for credentialing in expanded duties for licensed dental assistants, dental hygienists and public health hygienists.

Kolterman offered an amendment, adopted 44-0, that would make the bill operable Jan. 1, 2018.

Following adoption of the amendment, senators voted 40-0 to advance LB18 to select file.

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