KITCHENER -- Dental hygienists are now legally able to treat their spouses in Ontario.

The province passed the new regulation last week. Prior to that change, treating a spouse could considered sexual abuse of a patient.

Alex Tenase said he lost his dental hygienist licence for treating his wife and was labelled a sexual abuser because of it.

"(It) makes no sense and it's an insult to true victims of sexual assault," he said.

Tenase treated his wife -- who was his fiancée at the time -- in 2015. He lost his licence in 2019 and filed an appeal.

"In March, the Court of Appeal accepted the appeal," Tenase said.

He got his licence back four months later and is currently working at a Waterloo dental clinic. Now, the rules have changed and hygienists can treat their spouses legally.

According to the new regulations, a spouse is defined as someone married or in a conjugal relationship for more than three years.

"A lot of members are thrilled with the change," said Margaret Carter, executive director of the Ontario Dental Hygienists' Association.

The rule didn't apply to dentists and the association has been lobbying the province for change.

"Up until last week, they were the only regulated profession in Ontario that was allowed to treat their spouse," Carter said.

Tenase said he's still waiting to go to court.

"It is my understanding that there is no retroactivity to this regulation, so I'm not sure where that will leave his particular case," Carter said.

Tenase said he's fighting this based on principle and wants his name cleared. He expects the appeal will cost about $35,000, but said it will be worth it.

"Not to have this burden over my head," he said.

The College of Dental Hygienists of Ontario said the new spousal exemption regulations means a sexual relationship between a hygienist and spouse must be kept out of the office setting and they must be treated with the same professional formalities as any other client.