17 October 2011

Q. Can dental hygienists and therapists prescribe radiographs?

The GDC’s guidance document Scope of Practice makes it clear that dental hygienists and therapists may take, process and interpret various radiographs used in general dental practice. Similarly with additional training hygienists and therapists are permitted to prescribe radiographs provided of course they are relevant to the course of treatment being undertaken.

The guidance document however is a little confusing as it also clearly indicates that dental hygienists and therapists do not diagnose disease. It is difficult to know how the two concepts may sit comfortably together, bearing in mind that the whole reason for taking a radiograph is to provide some clinical information that would help in a diagnosis of some form of disease process, albeit periodontal or carious in nature.

Without doubt therapists and hygienists will understand the significance of many of the various radio-lucent and radio-opaque areas visible on an x-ray. They may also be able to interpret changes on films taken at different times. Noting increased bone loss around a tooth after viewing a pair of radiographs taken 12 months apart might be a perfectly reasonable interpretation of the situation but diagnosing the cause is still something that must rest with the dentist, as should the overall management of the situation.

However, if you have not had such training you need to have the prescription before taking the radiograph.

Dental Protection Limited is registered in England (No. 2374160) and is a wholly owned subsidiary of The Medical Protection Society Limited (MPS) which is registered in England (No.36142). Both companies use Dental Protection as a trading name and have their registered office at 33 Cavendish Square, London W1G 0PS.

Dental Protection Limited serves and supports the dental members of MPS with access to the full range of benefits of membership, which are all discretionary, and set out in MPS’s Memorandum and Articles of Association. MPS is not an insurance company. Dental Protection® is a registered trademark of MPS.

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