BSDHT response on soft tissue examinations

Last month the British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy (BSDHT) wrote to the General Dental Council (GDC) to seek clarification on the Scope of Practice of the Dental Hygienist and Therapist following a flood of enquiries from members. This was in relation to two expert opinions that were published in a report of a Fitness to Practice case. The GDC report stated that the two expert witnesses “agreed that it was not within the remit of a hygienist to examine soft tissues”.

Since then the GDC have confirmed that hygienists and therapists “can examine the soft tissues of the mouth if they are trained, competent and indemnified to do so”. The GDC stated they were unable to comment on the evidence provided as part of a hearing. A transcript of this hearing was made available to BSDHT which showed that these expert opinions were in context of the time in which this issue arose and do not reflect the current Scope of Practice today.

The Dental Defence Union (DDU), who supported the dental hygienist and therapist at the GDC, clarified the position on the implications of the case for dental hygienists and therapists. Leo Briggs, DDU dento-legal adviser, commented: “The case in question involved a DDU member who was treating a patient prior to 1 May 2013, when direct access to dental hygienists and therapists without the prescription of a dentist became available. The DDU member was providing treatment under the prescription of a dentist who did not ask her to carry out a soft tissue examination. It was agreed by the experts giving evidence at the GDC hearing that there was no requirement for the hygienist and therapist concerned to conduct a formal soft tissue examination of the patient in these circumstances.

“The DDU supported the member throughout the GDC process and we are happy to clarify any confusion about the implications of the outcome of the hearing for dental hygienists and therapists.

“The DDU confirms that a dental hygienist or therapist can carry out a soft tissue examination when seeing a patient under a direct access arrangement, or if one is prescribed by a dentist. This is confirmed by the British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy (BSDHT). When an examination is carried out, you should always make a note of both the positive and negative findings in the clinical records.”

BSDHT wish to remind their members that screening for Oral Cancer is within the Scope of Practice and that Dr. Paul Brocklehurst (1,2) evidenced that Hygienists and Therapists are as accurate as GDPS in their assessment of potentially malignant disorders.

  1. Current Evidence for The Use Of Dental Hygienists And Therapists In Primary Dental Care. Paul Brocklehurst (speaking at BDA conference Friday 8th May)
  2. The Efficacy of Screening for Common Dental Diseases by Hygiene-Therapists: A Diagnostic Test Accuracy Study R. Macey1, A. Glenny1, T. Walsh1, M. Tickle1, H. Worthington1, J. Ashley2,and P. Brocklehurst1

Editors Notes



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The British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy (BSDHT) is a nationally recognised body that represents over 4,000 Dental Hygienists and Dental Therapists across the UK and beyond.

BSDHT maintain an on-going dialogue with the General Dental Council (GDC), the Departments of Health and all of the main groups representing dental care professionals, and attends meetings of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Dentistry, bringing dental hygiene and therapy to the attention of government ministers and MP’s.

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