A Brief History of the CDHO
The College of Dental Hygienists of Ontario (CDHO) came into being with the proclamation of the Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991 (RHPA) and Dental Hygiene Act, 1991 (DHA) on December 31, 1993. Prior to that date, dental hygienists in Ontario had been regulated by the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario (RCDSO), which regulates dentists, the dental hygienists' primary employer. Initially, the drafters of the RHPA and DHA had determined that dental hygienists had the knowledge, skill and judgment to “self-initiate” their authorized act of scaling teeth and root planing, including curetting surrounding tissue.
However, during government Committee hearings, organized dentistry lobbied members of parliament to include the restriction that dental hygienists had to obtain an “order” from a dentist for the client to have scaling and root planing performed by a dental hygienist. Supervision was not required. However, the “order” effectively continued to tie the provision of dental hygiene services with those of the dentist and made it very difficult for the public to access oral hygiene care in non-traditional settings. This is not what was intended under the RHPA as it negated client choice of practitioner. Therefore, each CDHO Council from the Transitional Council in 1994 to the Council in 2007 made it a priority to have the legislation amended. Proclamation in September 2007 permitted dental hygienists, authorized by the CDHO, to self-initiate preventive oral health care procedures.
During those years from 1994 to 2007, various Councils hired the College administrative staff, developed regulations, standards and bylaws. In anticipation of self-regulation, a levy had been placed on registrants, beginning in 1988. This fund was ably invested by the RCDSO in trust. As a result, the CDHO had sufficient funds to set up an office and operate a Transitional Council without depending on funds from the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. In January 1994, the Transitional Council became the CDHO Council operating under the statutory committee structure required by the RHPA. The CDHO held its first province-wide election in December 1994.
There were approximately 5,000 dental hygienists in Ontario on January 1994. In January 2012, the CDHO had a registrant base of over 12,500. A large part of the growth of the registrant base came from an increase in the number of private dental hygiene programs permitted to operate in the province. While the number of publicly funded programs decreased, private enterprise opened a number of schools, many of which were not of sufficient quality to be awarded accreditation status by the Commission on Dental Accreditation of Canada. At the time of writing, the Ministry of Training, Colleges & Universities (MTCU), the Ministry responsible for post-secondary education was in the process of critically evaluating those programs that had been denied accreditation status.