The AAO is advocating for a rule change that would allow dental assistants to perform more tasks with supervision to help alleviate workforce shortages.

The American Association of Orthodontists with Michigan Association of Orthodontists (MAO) members led a grassroots effort to submit public comments to the Michigan Board of Dentistry. The comments addressed workforce shortage challenges and recommended specific updates to the Dentistry General Rules in Michigan. 

The Michigan Board of Dentistry actively proposed changes to its Dentistry General Rules this summer, which includes delegable tasks to dental auxiliaries. 

AAO and MAO leadership worked closely together to develop recommended changes to allow dental assistants (now referred to as unregistered dental assistants, or UDAs, in the draft rules) to perform certain orthodontic tasks under direct supervision.

Similar to orthodontists in many other states, Michigan dentists and orthodontists are feeling the effects of a shortage of workforce. They are having a difficult time finding and hiring dental assistants, and more specifically, orthodontic assistants. 

As the Dental Administrative Rules currently state, and present in the current draft rule changes, only registered dental assistants (RDAs) are allowed to carry out many of the tasks orthodontists require – and yet, RDAs are not formally trained to accomplish these tasks as part of their certification process.

Since dental assistants have a shorter pathway to become eligible to work in a dental office, allowing dental assistants to perform certain orthodontic tasks under direct supervision is not only a practical request, but it is one solution to help address the workforce issues Michigan orthodontists are facing.

“These modifications to the current Dentistry General Rules will help address workforce challenges while also enhancing access of patient care to specialty services,” said Nathan Thomas, DDS, MAO president. “Also, there are not enough RDAs graduating to meet the demand of all the areas of dentistry. let alone the specialty of orthodontics. My nearest dental assisting program has dropped its accreditation and no longer produces RDAs.”

The requested changes are consistent with equivalent auxiliaries and their allowable duties in several other states, including Illinois, Wisconsin, and Ohio. The Michigan Board of Dentistry will review and consider all comments received at its next rules workgroup meeting in September.

This will be an ongoing grassroots effort for AAO and MAO to work with the Board of Dentistry to address these workforce challenges.

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