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J Dent Hyg. 2018 Feb;92(1):30-39.

General Dentists' Perceptions of Dental Hygienists' Professional Role: A Survey.


Purpose: Changes in dental hygienists' scope of practice in the United States (U.S.) are not independent of general dentists' attitudes and behavior related to dental hygienists' professional roles. The purpose of this study was to assess perceptions and knowledge of general dentists concerning the legally allowable duties of dental hygienists in their state versus the services they provide in their individual practices; the importance of dental hygienists' contributions to the practice; and how well dental hygienists interact with dentists and patients. The relationships between dentists' attitudes, and dental hygienists' actual behavior, the age of the dentist and the number of dental hygienists and dental assistants employed in the practice were also explored.Methods: Survey data were collected from 292 general dentists in the state of Michigan concerning their attitudes and behavior related to dental hygienists' scope of practice.Results: The average number of services dental hygienists provided in the practices surveyed were lower than the average number of services that dental hygienists are legally permitted to provide in the state of Michigan. The higher the importance dentists placed on dental hygienists' clinical and overall contributions to their practice and their patient management skills, the more diagnostic services and therapies the dental hygienists performed. The older the dentists were, the higher they rated the importance of dental hygienists' clinical contributions, their contributions for the provision of patient care, and the more often dental hygienists performed diagnostic and additional procedures.Conclusions: While dentists did not indicate delegating all of the legally allowable dental hygiene duties in their practices, they did indicate having a very high appreciation of the contributions of dental hygienists to their practice. The perceived value of dental hygienists' contributions correlated positively with the number of diagnostic and adjunctive services dentists delegated dental hygienists to perform in their practices.


access to care; dental hygienists; professional role; scope of practice

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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