In June, a bill was introduced in the Ohio legislature, H.B. 679, pertaining to COVID-19 relief measures for public health facilities and long-term care and expanding telehealth to accommodate certain professions and facilities. Dentistry was not included in this bill, as Ohio already had both a law and dental board regulations governing teledentistry. However, hours before a floor vote, and with no opportunity for conversation, an amendment was proposed to include language that would have severely weakened the existing teledentistry law and dental board regulations.

Specifically, the proposed last minute amendments would have allowed unregulated persons to take digital photographs of teeth to be used for diagnosis and orthodontic treatment planning. The language also included a new definition of teledentistry, did not require any in-person interaction, established an auxiliary position of a dental scan technician, and did not require the dentist to review any x-rays prior to beginning orthodontic treatment. Ohio AAO members immediately sprang into action and sent over 100 messages to House members to inform them about the potential negative impact this proposed amendment  could have on patients and Ohio’s current teledentistry laws and rules.

While the amendment passed the House, the AAO and the Ohio Association of Orthodontists (OAO) mobilized through use of the Component Legal Support Fund and engaged Ohio lobbyists to assist in educating Ohio Senate members.  Our collective efforts focused on meeting with stakeholders, legislators, and other government officials to explain that the teledentistry amendment was added at the last minute to a bill focused on COVID-19 relief, and that the amendment was not in the best interest of the health and safety of Ohioans. Thankfully, the amended bill was not given a hearing date in the Senate and will not be moving forward before the end of Ohio’s legislative session on December 31, 2020.

Please know that our efforts are not over as the AAO will work with the OAO to continue to advocate for our Ohio members and will support legislation that is in the best interest of patient health and safety.

Please also note that every orthodontist (as a citizen of and licensed dental provider in his or her state) and every patient has the right, independently and individually, to express his or her opinion on any dental issue to his or her state dental board, the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and elected state officials (e.g. Attorney General, Governor, state representative, etc.). If you feel so compelled, you can look up and contact the appropriate entity.

Contact information for state and provincial dental regulatory authorities can be found at https://www1.aaoinfo.org/legal-advocacy/state-dental-board-information/ .