Purpose: Kansas House Bill 2724 (HB 2724), which allows dental assistants to perform coronal scaling, was passed by the Kansas legislature in the spring of 1998. This bill was the legislature's way of addressing access to care and manpower issues, in relation to oral health care in Kansas. The intent of this study was to collect baseline data related to HB 2724. Specific purposes of this study were to, 1) compare overall perceptions of dental hygienists and scaling assistants related to HB 2724, 2) compare perceptions of dental hygienists and scaling assistants on how HD 2724 has addressed access to care and manpower issues, and 3) examine the impact of HB 2724 on the delivery of preventive care in underserved areas in Kansas.
Methods: This study employed a nonexperimental descriptive survey research design. Two survey instruments were developed consisting of Likert scale questions, demographic information, and closed and opened-ended questions. All registered Kansas dental hygienists, and dental assistants who had completed the training course approved by the Kansas Dental Board to perform coronal scaling of teeth, were chosen to participate.
Results: A total response rate of 38% for dental hygienists, and 42% for scaling assistants was achieved. Analyses were conducted to ensure validity and reliability of the two survey instruments, including factor analysis and internal reliability measures. In relation to overall satisfaction with career choices, both dental hygienists and scaling assistants reported being happy in their professions and respected by their dentist employers. The majority of dental hygiene respondents (79%) did not see HB 2724 addressing either access to care or manpower issues in the state, while in contrast a majority (89%) of scaling assistants believed that this was the best answer for Kansas in relation to access to care and manpower. In examining the impact of HB 2724 on delivery of preventive care in underserved areas of Kansas, this study found that the majority of scaling assistants reported practicing in metropolitan areas, as opposed to identified oral health care shortage areas in the state.
Conclusions: While both dental hygienists and scaling assistants are satisfied with their career choices, this legislation does not appear to be addressing its main objectives-access to care and increased manpower in dentally underserved areas in Kansas.