Director's Message: Watch out for this Illinois tornado

March 28, 2008
Legislation in Illinois is baffling, but the intent to harm our profession is there.

A good intention for a dinner gathering usually plays out without incident. A typical scenario goes something like this: Join a group of colleagues for dinner, choose a charming restaurant with a warm atmosphere, a great meal, and poof — an enchanting dining experience.

A few weeks ago, during the Thomas P. Hinman dental meeting hosted March 13-15 at the Georgia World Congress Center, such Friday evening activities were under way in many restaurants throughout Atlanta. Friends, colleagues, dental teams, and business partners were enjoying social activities, all with little foresight into the plans of Mother Nature.

A powerful storm came sweeping through the city of Atlanta. In the restaurant where I was dining, the sound, which was just like many of you have heard as the description of a tornado, was like an enormous freight train coming through the bistro. As we were attempting to discern exactly what may be happening, glass began to fly as some of the windows of the restaurant shattered under the enormous pressure of the winds. The rapid-fire of glass showered the restaurant, and we all sought a safer place to be out of arms way. Within seconds, downtown Atlanta appeared like images of a war zone.

They say that change is the only truly constant in life. This is why, I believe, dental hygienists have always been able turn on a dime. We go from top-notch clinicians to consumer advocates to behavioral change agents all in an appointment. So when I read about how the impending change in two bills, if passed, in the Illinois legislature would negatively impact technology and the clinical practice of dental hygiene, I feel compelled to alert my readers.

Change often comes unannounced. This specific case, if not dealt with, could deliver a blow that many dental hygienists and our patients will wish could have been averted. At this juncture, and at least in Illinois, a dismantling result may be avoided.

For those of my readers who are not familiar with the complex challenges our Illinois colleagues are facing, let me re-cap. The two bills in the Illinois legislature would limit the use of new technology by dental hygienists and limit the function of the dental hygiene community. House Bill 5511 has already passed the Illinois House of Representatives. House Bill 5511 would require the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation to issue rules prohibiting the use of new technology by dental hygienists, or if the use wasn't prohibited, it would require rules regarding the education and training needed before any such new technology could be employed by a hygienist.

According to an Illinois Dental Hygienist's Association update, "This measure is unnecessary and would overload the Department and Board with rulemaking on issues that can be appropriately decided by clinicians. Because House Bill 5511 does not define what classifies as new technology, it is possible that rules would be required before a hygienist could use any new products or technology — even a toothbrush or rinse."

House Bill 5511 would also prohibit the two dental hygiene members of the Illinois Board of Dentistry from participating in rule-making and disciplinary actions regarding the clinical decisions of dentists. Again, the IDHA feels, "This measure is unnecessary. Currently, the Board is comprised of 8 dentists, 2 hygienists and 1 public member. Decisions on rule-making and discipline of any professional, dentist or hygienist, are considered by the full Board with the assistance of legal staff of the Department. There is no need to draw distinctions among the members of the Board and limit which members are allowed to participate in certain Board functions."

A tornado's destruction and the rebuilding in the aftermath are unavoidable. Yet, the ripping to pieces of dental hygiene functions in Illinois may still be hampered or even re-directed. As Martin Luther King Jr. so eloquently wrote, "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."

The winds of change occur, whether by nature or community. Dental hygienists can choose no action, (which is an action upon itself) or can choose positive actions to limit the constant disassembling of our professional capabilities and the care we deliver to our patients.

For more information and what you can do, please go to

Kristine A. Hodsdon RDH, BS
Director, RDH eVillage