What is a scope of practice?
According to an article on DentistryIQ.com, it is “designed to reflect which procedures can be done safely and effectively based on the education and training of the person doing it—with the goal of protecting the patient.”
This can include the necessity of being licensed or other state regulations.
It is an important topic to know for dental assistants. For example, dental assistants, hygienists, and dentists can be held legally responsible for performing procedures that they are not educated, trained, and/or licensed to do.
So simply “doing what the dentist” told you to do is not necessarily a smart option, especially if it’s something you were not trained or licensed for.
The article goes on to advise that working outside the scope of practice causes a devaluing of dental assistants. The example they give is in California, where there are three levels of assistants: dental assistant (no license required and usually earns the least amount), RDA (licensed, bigger scope of practice than DA and earns more), and RDAEF or Registered Dental Assistant in Extended Functions (even bigger scope of practice and earns more than RDA). So, if a DA making $14/hour agrees to do a procedure that is an RDA duty, it reduces the value of the RDA. After all, why would a dentist pay for an RDA when he can get a DA to do it for less money?
The bottom line is that as dental assistants it is not just important to know your job, but also what isn’t your job and when a specialist, whether a hygienist or dentist, should handle the work.
The ADAA website, www.dentalassistant.org, has the scope of practices for various states. You can also find the state’s dental board information.