|Action||Training in infection control|
|Comment Period||Ends 3/31/2021|
Misty L. Mesimer, RDH, MSCH, CDA
14 Little Street
Fredericksburg, VA 22405
March 11, 2021
Virginia Board of Dentistry
9960 Mayland Drive, Suite 300
Henrico, VA 23233-1463
Dear Honorable Members of the Board,
Thank you so very much for advancing the petition requiring dental assistants to have certification in infection control procedures. It is such a very important topic that needs to be addressed. As we learn to live in a post-pandemic world being more mindful of aerosolized transmissions, you are demonstrating progressive thinking and action. The importance of needing education and certification in infection control is evident in your decision last March to advance this petition. I am writing now to discuss how we can operationalize this request.
The easiest and most simple solution would be to say that all dental assistants must hold Certified Dental Assistant certification from the Dental Assisting National Board. It would take all the work of certification and recertification off of your plate. It would allow safe practice of dental assistants to be credentialed by a well-recognized and reputable organization that the Board can trust. The Board would be assured of currency in infection control knowledge as well because maintaining the CDA credential requires annual education in infection prevention. I strongly advocate for dental assistants to be Certified Dental Assistants. This truly is a first step in assuring quality oral health care in our great Commonwealth.
But I also recognize that we must navigate a regulatory system that has not always recognized the importance of formal education and credentials. Those that have served in the role of a dental assistant without formal education and credentialling must be respected and honored. The good news is that there are options for these professionals as well.
As a first step, I recommend that we mirror regulations that are already in place. The requirements for x-ray certification. The language reads:” A dental assistant I or II shall not place or expose dental x-ray film unless he has one of the following: (i) satisfactory completion of a radiation safety course and examination given by an institution that maintains a program in dental assisting, dental hygiene, or dentistry accredited by CODA; (ii) certification by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists; or (iii) satisfactory completion of the Radiation Health and Safety Review Course provided by the Dental Assisting National Board or its affiliate and passage of the Radiation Health and Safety Exam given by the Dental Assisting National Board. Any certificate issued pursuant to satisfying the requirements of this section shall be posted in plain view of the patient.”
I propose that you create language for infection control certification that reads: “A dental assistant I shall not participate in clinical dental procedures until (i) satisfactory completion of an infection control course and examination given by an institution that maintains a program in dental assisting, dental hygiene, or dentistry accredited by CODA; (ii) satisfactory completion of the OSAP-DALE Foundation Dental Infection Prevention and Control Certificate Program; or (iii) satisfactory completion of the Infection Control Examination provided by the Dental Assisting National Board. Any certificate issued pursuant to satisfying the requirements of this section shall be posted in plain view of the patient.” Dental assistants who certify through any of these methods and do not maintain the CDA credential must have annual continuing education in infection prevention and control. It is further recommended that dental assistants have until the next license renewal cycle to become compliant once the final language is approved.
There have been so many stories of allied dental professionals not returning to their roles as they feared the unknown. Requiring this level of entry-level credentials will help to grow the dental profession. Dental assistants will be able to face the next pandemic with a strong base of knowledge. They can proudly and safely serve because they understand disease transmission and prevention principles. They will not need to rely on the media and political rhetoric to try and decipher best practices. Doctors will have a well-informed assistant to help them navigate stressful and uncertain times. This will help to better serve the dental team and the patients.
Dental assistants will be able to use this credential as a stepping-stone to a long career in dentistry. There won’t be a temptation to go work at Starbucks where there the only aerosol is coffee grounds and steamed milk. This will encourage relationship building with the patients of the Commonwealth and help promote the highest standards of care.
Again, thank you for your attention to this important issue. Your decisions have the potential for positive impact both immediately and long term.
Misty L. Mesimer, RDH, MSCH, CDA