The Further Educational Needs of Dental Hygienists

Charla Lautar, David Kirby


Dental hygiene is an occupation that is beginning to assume the status of a profession. The research reported in this paper focuses on the perceptions of education as it relates to the professional status of dental hygienists, as well as on some aspects of their continuing education needs. It is taken from a study of dental hygienists and dentists in Alberta, which investigated the perceptions of both groups of the status of dental hygiene as a profession.

Data for the study was collected from focus groups of dental hygienists and questionnaires administered to both dentists and hygienists in Alberta.

While the study showed support among dental hygienists as a group for further education, as well as for the notion of mandated continuing education, there was uncertainty about what forms it should take and whether it would in fact be needed by the majority of hygienists engaged in traditional practice, views that were shared by the dentists in the study. Of particular interest in the study were the views of the respondents on the baccalaureate in dental hygiene, which is seen by Dental Hygienists' Associations as being an important step in the evolution of dental hygiene as a profession. The respondents in the study were quite sharply divided over the need for the degree: dental hygienists in nontraditional careers were supportive of the idea, while those engaged in traditional practice, as well as the dentists, were less so. The findings of this study, which indicate a division within the ranks of dental hygienists, have considerable importance for those who are charged with charting the future of dental hygiene.

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