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J Dent Hyg. 2012 Fall;86(4):292-305. Epub 2012 Nov 7.

Maryland dental hygienists' knowledge, opinions and practices regarding dental caries prevention and early detection.

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  • 1School of Dental Hygiene, Faculty of Dentistry, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.



The purpose of this study was to assess Maryland dental hygienists' knowledge, practices and opinions regarding dental caries prevention and early detection.


A 30 item survey was mailed to 1,258 Maryland dental hygienists. Two follow-up mailings and email reminders were sent.


The response rate was 43% (n=540). Nearly all respondents were female (98%), and 58% practiced in solo settings. Knowledge and certainty of knowledge were moderate: sealants are needed regardless of topical fluoride use (55% certain, 40% less certain), newly erupted permanent molars are the best candidates for sealants (54%, 36%) and professionally applied fluorides are desirable in areas without fluoridated water (55%, 36%). Fewer were certain that incipient lesions can be remineralized before cavitation (23%, 69%), and dilute, frequently administered fluorides are more effective in caries prevention than concentrated, less frequently administered fluorides (6%, 24%). Opinions regarding effectiveness of protocols for 2 age groups from 6 months to 6 years, the challenges of early childhood caries (ECC), prevention practices regarding sealant and topical fluoride applications varied widely. Eighty-nine percent reported routinely assessing dental caries risk factors of child patients and 90% were interested in continuing education courses. There were no significant differences between different types of practice settings, year of graduation, race/ethnicity or gender.


Knowledge of recommended guidelines for fluoride and sealant application support clinical decision-making and self-care counseling. Misinformation and lack of understanding of current research and recommendations identify a need for educational interventions in undergraduate dental hygiene programs and through continuing education for practicing hygienists.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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