Reconnecting Practicing Hygienists with the Nation's Leading Educators and Researchers.

The Importance of Collaboration

During the past year, we’ve all tried to focus on the “silver linings” found in the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the past year, we’ve all tried to focus on the “silver linings” found in the COVID-19 pandemic. The biggest positives that come to mind are spending more time with family and recognizing the importance of and joy in everyday life. There are also professional achievements to celebrate. Oral health professionals have been recognized as essential caregivers. As dental offices have reopened, patients are expressing their appreciation in so many ways. I’ll never forget a Facebook post with the image of a patient holding a sign saying “I want to see my dental hygienist!”

From an interprofessional standpoint, a first-ever milestone was met when the American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA) and the American Dental Association (ADA) collaborated on a research project. The aim of the project was to determine the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on oral healthcare providers. The study consisted of a series of questions related to COVID-19 infections among oral health professionals and employment conditions during the past year. Important to note, this was the first study of its kind that monitored the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on dental hygienists in the United States.

A FIRST-EVER MILESTONE WAS MET WHEN THE AMERICAN DENTAL HYGIENISTS’ ASSOCIATION AND THE AMERICAN DENTAL ASSOCIATION COLLABORATED ON A RESEARCH PROJECT.

The purpose of the research was to determine the prevalence of COVID-19 among dental hygienists, examine infection control protocols, and investigate mental health trends. The results were interesting:

  • As of October 8, 2020, dental hygienists from all 50 states and Puerto Rico had participated in the survey.
  • 3.1% of the 4,776 dental hygiene respondents had tested positive or been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • 99.1% of respondents reported enhanced infection control measures in their practice settings due to the pandemic.
  • An estimated 8% of the dental hygiene workforce had left the profession as a result of the pandemic, and a majority of those who left did so voluntarily.
  • The anxiety level experienced by dental hygienists during the pandemic was similar to the level felt by the general population.
  • Dental hygienist respondents experienced lower levels of depression as compared to the general population.

These research results were presented during a joint webinar with representatives from both the ADHA and the ADA. If you missed it, the webinar and research are available on the ADHA’s website at: adha.org.

The study, however, is not over. It’s ongoing, and more dental hygienists are needed to participate. As with any research, the more participants, the more accurate the data can be. The survey only takes about 15 minutes to 20 minutes to complete and is conducted monthly. Only aggregate data are published, so no identifying information is shared publicly. If interested, you can participate in the study here: https://surveys.ada.org/jfe/form/SV_dhZGL1pJHahL8Kp.

As ADHA’s CEO, Ann Battrell, MSDH, states, “A major determinant of how organizations manage crises like the COVID-19 pandemic is the ability to collaborate.” Participation in collaborations like this one between the ADHA and the ADA can only enhance our profession, and you can play a big part in it.

Jill Rethman, RDH, BA
Editor in Chief
[email protected]

For additional questions about the research, please email: [email protected] or research­[email protected].

From Dimensions of Dental Hygiene. April 2021;19(4):6.

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