dental assistant, On the Job, Scope of Practice

Medical Assistants Working with Dually Licensed Providers

The following question is not asked frequently. However, it raises important legal considerations:

I work for an oral surgeon who is both a licensed physician and a licensed dentist. Is my scope of practice determined by the state medical practice act or the state dental practice act?

Many oral surgeons have both an MD/DO degree (doctor of medicine or osteopathy) and a DDS/DMD degree (doctor of dental surgery or dental medicine) and are licensed as both physicians and dentists.

When medical assistants perform a dental task, they function as dental assistants. Thus, the state dental practice act and the regulations and policies of the state board of dental examiners determine the legal scope of practice—including supervision requirements by the delegating oral surgeon. If state law allows delegation of certain dental tasks only to individuals who meet dental assisting education and credentialing requirements, medical assistants must meet these requirements or obtain a waiver from the board of dental examiners to perform such tasks.

When medical assistants perform a medical task, the scope of practice is established by the state medical practice act and the regulations and policies of the state board of medical examiners. Go to the State Scope of Practice Laws webpage on the AAMA website to find the medical assisting law of all states.

delegation, dental assistant, On the Job, Professional Identity, Scope of Practice

Medical Assistants in Dental Offices

This blog frequently discusses scope-of-practice issues, but health care always provides new questions to examine. This post will address the following: Are medical assistants permitted to work in a dental office under the authority/supervision of a dentist?

First of all, it is important to keep in mind the distinction between a dental hygienist and a dental assistant. Under the laws of all American jurisdictions, dental hygienists are required to be licensed. Licensure for dental hygienists requires graduation from a postsecondary dental hygiene academic program and the passing of a national (and in some cases, state) examination. Thus, medical assistants—including CMAs (AAMA)—are not permitted to work as dental hygienists.

Under the laws of some states, dental assistants are required to have formal education and pass a test in order to be delegated certain tasks by the overseeing/delegating dentist. Other states have no educational or testing requirements for dental assistants. A medical assistant should check with the state board of dental examiners (usually in the state capital) to find out whether the state has any educational or testing requirements for dental assistants, and whether any of the medical assisting education or credentialing can be used toward meeting any state requirements for dental assistants.