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The hygienist practitioner

Debate about expanding scope of practice mounts; dentist resistance still seen

Nurse practitioners and physician assistants who have a master’s degree, or the equivalent education and training, are prevalent in the healthcare industry.

Under a physician’s supervision, these allied professionals examine patients, make diagnoses of minor illnesses, prescribe medication, and administer anesthesia. They earn salaries in the high five to low six figures and staff outpatient clinics all over the United States. They play a key role in the burgeoning on-site retail clinics at major chain pharmacies and department stores.

By contrast, there is only a small number of such allied professionals in dentistry. Thus, the duties of hygienists have begun to expand. Whether they will prevail in widening their narrow scope of practice remains to be seen.