The Future of Dental Hygiene

1) One major advancement in the history of dental hygiene was in 2004, when Arizona dental hygienists were granted the ability to serve as mid-level providers. This model, called the teledentistry-assisted affiliated practice dental hygiene model, was implemented with the purpose of increasing access to care to underserved populations in the public setting. Dental hygienists in this position could work without being under the supervision of a dentist. “Patients benefit by receiving preventive services locally, having their overall oral health evaluated by a professional oral health care team, and scheduling appropriate treatment with minimal travel time” Summerfelt, stated, “Affiliated practice dental hygienists are able to provide preventive services in a mid-level practitioner model that promotes additional professional opportunities” (2014, p. 37). This was truly a significant step forward for the dental hygiene profession, because it increased access to care for patients in need, and gave dental hygienists additional freedom and autonomy as dental health professionals.

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2) Another significant step in dental hygiene history was when the concept of doctoral dental hygiene degrees was established. “In 2010, the International Federation of Dental Hygienists concluded at its house of delegates workshop that dental hygiene doctoral programs should be universal and include the international community” (Walsh, 2014, p 45). Leading to this point in time, dental hygiene had certainly advanced from its original foundation, but the educational offering for higher degrees had fallen short. Luckily, “In 2013, the University of Namseoul in South Korea established the first PhD program in dental hygiene” (Walsh, 2014, p. 45). This advanced educational step for the dental hygiene profession serves countless purposes. It provides dental hygienists with the ability to increase their knowledge and serve as educators, clinicians, and researchers at a high-quality level. Also, this opportunity allows hygienists to serve a broader range of people, including patients, students, and colleagues.Education-OpportunitySmall.jpg

I envision that the dental hygiene profession will advance greatly in the next quarter century. Even in my brief few years of practice, I have seen changes in the field. My personal belief is that the mid-level dental hygiene practitioner model will flourish to the point of national acceptance. I feel that all states will eventually grant hygienists the ability to further their clinical scope of practice as mid-level providers. As we have discussed at the beginning of the semester, many states in the country already have legislation submitted to accomplish this. I also believe that the educational requirements will change for dental hygienists. I think that dental hygienists will eventually be required to have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree prior to being licensed to practice clinically. I have noticed in my state that all registered nurses are now legally required to obtain a bachelor’s degree within the next few years if they want to continue practicing. I believe that the dental hygiene field will follow this lead.

Summerfelt, F. (2014). Teledentistry-assisted affiliated practice model. Dimensions of dental hygiene, 12(11); 37. Retrieved from file:///C:/Users/Default.DESKTOP-4QTSG3J/Downloads/Dimensions_Teledentistry_Assisted_Affiliated_Practice_Model_Summerfelt_2014.pdf.

Walsh, M. M. (2014). Raising the bar. Dimensions of dental hygiene, 12(11); 44-45. Retrieved from file:///C:/Users/Default.DESKTOP-4QTSG3J/Downloads/Raising_The_Bar_PhD_in_Dental_Hygiene_Education_Walsh_2014.pdf.


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