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J Allied Health. 2010 Spring;39(1):e1-6.

Dental hygienists' role in patient assessments and clinical examinations in U.S. dental practices: a review of the literature.

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The Ohio State University College of Dentistry, Section of Dental Hygiene, 305 West 12th Ave. #179, Columbus, OH 43210, USA.


Dental hygienists are licensed primary oral healthcare professionals, oral health educators and clinicians who provide preventive, educational, and therapeutic services to support total health through oral health promotion. Performance of patient assessments and oral examinations are part of dental hygienists' educational preparation and standards of care. Oral health examinations are one of if not the most important services provided by dental professionals. The vast majority of dental hygienists are employed in private practices and there is no standardization of scope of practice and role expectations of dental hygienists among states in the U.S. Therefore, it is unclear to what extent dental hygienists perform oral examinations and whether the examinations are shared by hygienists and dentists. This paper reviews the literature to identify what we know and what we don't know about this important role of dental hygienists. Issues surrounding this topic are discussed, followed by recommendations for our profession.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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