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Dental Hygiene’s Bright Future

Two reports were recently published that bode well for dental hygiene’s future.

Two reports were recently published that bode well for dental hygiene’s future—”The Role of Dental Hygienists in Providing Access to Oral Health Care”1 from the National Governors Association (NGA) and “Occupational Outlook Handbook: Dental Hygienists” from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).2 If you haven’t felt positively about your chosen profession, it’s time to take a look at the opportunities that lie ahead.

The NGA report cites numerous reasons why the role of dental hygienists in oral health care should be expanded. As the challenge to improve access to care continues, dental hygienists are poised to fill a void that has long existed. Along with preventive procedures to promote oral health, dental hygienists could practice in areas underserved by dentists and provide affordable services to high-needs populations. This report suggests that changing the current supervision requirements for dental hygienists, which vary by state, is critical to broadening their ability to provide patient care. The efforts of some states to reduce strict supervision rules and the effects of these changes on the provision of care are highlighted.

The examples illustrate how relaxing these restrictions can free dental hygienists “to practice to the full extent of their education and training.” Ultimately, enabling dental hygienists to practice in a variety of settings without direct supervision could lead to better care of underserved populations and a decrease in the incidence of dental diseases. The BLS states “employment of dental hygienists is expected to grow 33% from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations. “This growth is tied to the ongoing research showing a link between oral health and systemic health. As dental hygienists provide preventive services, the demand for their care is expected to rise. It also mentions that with a growing population of older adults who maintain their natural teeth, the need for dental hygiene services will continue to increase. In addition, new federal health insurance laws extend dental insurance benefits to children, who are key recipients of the preventive services that dental hygienists provide. The demand for prophylaxes, sealants, and fluoride treatments will continue to rise as these population groups seek newly available care.

It was interesting to read how dental hygienists are described in both of these reports. The BLS handbook was written for the lay audience, with a description of dental hygiene training requirements, work schedules, salaries, and important qualities. The more in-depth NGA report gives the reader a sense of what could be if dental hygienists were able to practice as their training prepares them. One thing is for sure: it’s going to get interesting as the world recognizes the important role dental hygienists play.

Jill Rethman, RDH, BA
Editor in Chief
jrethman@belmontpublications.com

REFERENCES

  1. National Governors Association. The Role of Dental Hygienists in Providing Access to Oral HealthCare. Available at: nga.org. Accessed March 13, 2014.
  2. United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Outlook Handbook: Dental Hygienists.Available at: bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dental-hygienists.htm. Accessed March 13, 2014.

From Dimensions of Dental Hygiene. April 2014;12(4):8.

 

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