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Br Dent J. 2007 Feb 10;202(3):E8; discussion 146-7. Epub 2007 Jan 26.

The acceptability of dually-qualified dental hygienist-therapists to general dental practitioners in South-East Scotland.

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Edinburgh Postgraduate Dental Institute, The University of Edinburgh, Lauriston Place, Edinburgh, UK.



Recent UK legislation allows dental therapists or jointly-qualified dental hygienist-therapists to work in the general dental service. This study aimed to investigate the extent of dentists' knowledge of the clinical remit of jointly qualified hygienist-therapists, their willingness to consider employing such a professional, and factors associated with these two measures.


A postal questionnaire was sent to 616 NHS-registered dentists in South-East Scotland. Analysis and classification of responses to open-ended questions used standard non-parametric statistical tests and quantitative techniques.


Following two mailings, a 50% (n = 310) response rate was obtained. A total of 65% of dentists worked in a practice employing a dental hygienist, while only 2% employed a dental therapist. Hygienists tended to work in larger practices. Dentists' knowledge of the clinical remit of the dually-qualified hygienist-therapist was found to be limited, reflecting a restricted and inaccurate view of the professional remit of a hygienist-therapist. The majority (64%) said they would consider employing a hygienist-therapist in their practice, rising to 72% amongst dentists already working with a hygienist. Reasons given by dentists who were negative about this prospect were sought. Those who worked with a hygienist tended to refer to lack of physical space, whilst those who did not tended to cite reservations on clinical skills, competence and responsibilities, or on the costs involved.


This study identified considerable ignorance and negativity among dentists about the nature and clinical remit of this group of professionals. Dually-qualified hygienist-therapists will be in a position to treat much of the routine disease that exists within the population, and dentists may benefit from education in relation to the substantial contribution these individuals could potentially make to patient care.

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