Last month, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul signed into law a dental hygiene bill that allows dental hygienists to use nitrous oxide and local infiltration anesthesia to assist dentists with all dental procedures. The bill, which was originally introduced in the State Senate in May 2021, amends section 6605-b of the Education Law effective immediately.
With the passage of this new law, dentists will find it easier to administer nitrous oxide analgesia or local infiltration anesthesia and, thus, maximize their profits by utilizing dental hygienists to a degree that was not previously permitted.
The bill states, in part, that “a dental hygienist shall not administer or monitor nitrous oxide analgesia or local infiltration anesthesia in the practice of dental hygiene without a dental hygiene restricted local infiltration anesthesia/nitrous oxide analgesia certificate and except under the personal supervision of a dentist and in accordance with regulations promulgated by the commissioner.”
The bill was crafted and supported by the New York State Dental Association (NYSDA). In a telephone call, Lance Plunkett, the NYSDA’s General Counsel, clarified that dental hygienists were already permitted to administer or monitor nitrous oxide analgesia or local infiltration anesthesia but were restricted to do so only for dental hygiene procedures. “This bill now allows hygienists to use these modalities of nitrous oxide analgesia or local infiltration anesthesia for any dental procedure, which will be much more helpful to the dentist,” Plunkett said.
The New York Senate, in its justification for the bill, stated in part, “[t]here are no public safety issues inherent in allowing a qualified, trained dental hygienist to administer the use of local infiltration anesthesia and nitrous oxide to help the dentist perform all necessary dental services. This legislation will allow dental offices to function more efficiently [and] provide greater access to care.”
The Journal of Dental Hygiene found, in a 2019 study, that patients support the practice of dental hygienists administering local anesthesia and appreciate that this practice allows for patient-centered care. “Researchers have found that dentists utilizing a dental hygienist to administer [local anesthesia] believed patients were more satisfied and comfortable during [non-surgical periodontal therapy], and both the dentists’ and dental hygienists’ schedules ran more smoothly,” the journal said.
Before permitting their hygienists to administer nitrous oxide analgesia or local infiltration anesthesia, dentists should make certain that their hygienists have their own malpractice insurance policy with coverage in full force and effect in order to protect them both from any errors.
This article was co-authored by Lindsay Brocki, a summer law clerk at Rivkin Radler.