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J Dent Hyg. 2009 Spring;83(2):62-9. Epub 2009 Apr 1.

Missing persons: African Americans in dental hygiene.

Author information

1
School of Dental Medicine, Department of Dental Hygiene, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA.

Abstract

PURPOSE:

The purpose of this research was to study some of the reasons why African Americans are underrepresented in dental hygiene. The purpose was to 1) describe African American representation in dental hygiene and dental hygiene education; 2) evaluate the relationship between the percentage of hygienists and the percentage of African Americans by state; and 3) evaluate how the professional practice environment of dental hygienists relates to African American demographics by state.

METHODS:

This descriptive study cross-linked secondary data from existing education, oral health, and population databases. This study included 1) the historical percentages of African American dental hygiene graduates over the last 10 years; 2) the percentages of dental hygienists per state, cross-referenced with race demographics by state, and 3) the Dental Hygiene Professional Practice Index (DHPPI) cross-linked with African American population statistics. (The DHPPI is a tool that summarizes the professional practice environment of dental hygienists by state.)

RESULTS:

1) Results demonstrate that based on African American dental hygiene graduation rates from 1996 through 2003, and employment projection data from the U.S. Labor Review Board, African Americans will continue to be proportionately underrepresented in dental hygiene. 2) Four of the top five states with the highest density of dental hygienists are in the 10 states with the lowest proportion of African Americans (Vermont, New Hampshire, North Dakota, and Oregon). 3) Of the 10 states (and DC) with the lowest density of dental hygienists, 3 of them have the highest proportion of African Americans (Mississippi, Louisiana, District of Columbia). 4) The 10 states with the highest proportion of African Americans had an average DHPPI score of 28.5%, which falls in the lowest "Restrictive" practice environment category. The 10 states with the lowest proportion of African Americans had an average DHPPI score of 46.9%, which scores in the "Favorable" category. 5) Of the 17 states with a higher than average African American population, (>12.1%), 14 were in the Limiting or Restrictive categories, 2 were in the Satisfactory category, 1 was in the Favorable, and none were in the Excellent category.

CONCLUSIONS:

African Americans are underrepresented in the dental hygiene profession. African Americans live in states that are disproportionately lacking dental hygienists. The professional practice environment for dental hygienists is more restrictive in states with high percentages of African Americans.

PMID:
19470231
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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