Canada’s weirdest laws: dental hygienists can’t clean their spouse’s teeth

It is illegal for dental hygienists to clean their spouses’ teeth in Ontario. (Photo: REUTERS/Luke MacGregor)
It is illegal for dental hygienists to clean their spouses’ teeth in Ontario. (Photo: REUTERS/Luke MacGregor)

If you’re married to a dental hygienist and they try to scrape that nasty tartar from your teeth, you’d better hope they drop their syringes, scalers and any other handheld tools because they could get into some serious trouble for cleaning your teeth.

Similar to how doctors can’t treat spouses, it’s illegal for dental hygienists to clean their spouses’ teeth in Ontario. If caught and reported to the College of Dental Hygienists of Ontario, the hygienist could lose their licence to practise for five years.

The reason this seemingly bizarre law exists is to protect a spouse from potential sexual abuse due to the healthcare professional-patient power imbalance. While cleaning teeth may seem innocent, this law is meant to shield those who might be vulnerable to sexual abuse since not every domestic situation is safe or alike. This is an extension of the rule where health care professionals can’t have sexual relations with patients.

Also, dental hygienists are considered self-governing. If a situation arises where a dentist or manager of a dental practice gives them permission to clean a spouse’s teeth, they can still have their licence suspended in Ontario, since provincial regulations are what dictate the rules – not individual bodies.

These regulations differ from province to province. Each provincial dental college has the ability to propose regulations to their provincial government to regulate the practice.

Currently, the College of Dental Hygienists of Ontario has proposed a regulation to allow hygienists to be able to take on spouses as patients. The proposed rule is pending and it can often take years for the government to accept or reject the proposed regulation.

However, unlike dental hygienists, dentists in Ontario are an exception; they can treat spouses thanks to an updated regulation in 2014.

Now when you visit the dental office for a cleaning, keep this in mind just like remembering to floss!
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