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Int J Dent Hyg. 2012 Feb;10(1):36-45. doi: 10.1111/j.1601-5037.2011.00510.x. Epub 2011 May 12.

Dental hygienists as adult learners and educators to improve access to care.

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Department of Dental Hygiene, Idaho State University, Pocatello, ID 83209, USA.



The purpose of the qualitative study was to understand dental hygienists as adult learners and educators in their quest to improve access to care. The intent of this article is to share the results from open and focused coding procedures and the participants' rich stories from which the analysis was constructed.


A grounded theory approach to data collection and analysis was used. Data were collected from eight practitioners in three US states who met the inclusion criteria, using semi-structured interviews. Traditional grounded theory procedures with a constructivist emphasis on lived experiences of the participants and situational analysis were used to analyse the data.


The process of learning was experienced in three categories: Awareness, Adaptation and Relationships. Awareness was the process of learning participants experienced as developing consciousness of self, status quo, power and injustice of systems. Adaptation was constructed from experiences of specializing and creating to adjust to the new environments and prepare future practitioners. Relationships were developed to feel connected and collaborate to build support and gain respect to improve access to care. Dental hygienists as educators revealed one category: Improvement. Improvement was the process of educating others to enhance awareness, oral health and the dental hygiene profession.


Dental hygienists were adult learners by using their experiences in the context of their struggle to improve health inequities. A strong educator role was necessary to make improvements in the oral health delivery system.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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