Dental Hygiene Practice

School-based Dental Sealant Calibration Workshop
^ School-based Dental Sealant
Calibration Workshop
Collaborative Practice Dental
Hygienists calibrating/evaluating
their sealant placement on
typodont teeth.

What is Collaborative Dental Practice?

Here is an excellent place to start!

So You Want to Be a Public Health Dental Hygienist? Working in a School Setting

Click here to view the YouTube video- 6 minutes; Massachusetts Department of Health.

A Practical Definition of Collaborative Practice:

[Dentist-dental hygienist] collaborative practice is different from and greater than [dentist-dental hygienist] collaboration. Collaboration is a single, temporal event that can occur intermittently in the day to day practice of health care. Conversely, [dentist-dental hygienist] collaborative practice is a dynamic process, a commitment to interact on a professional level, that empowers the participants to blend their talent, to achieve a goal that neither can do alone. *

Why Should a Dental Hygienist Be Interested in Collaborative Dental Hygiene Practice Opportunities?

Historically, dental hygiene was created as a distinct profession positioned in dental public health. Wide access to preventive care provided by educated dental hygiene professionals was the incentive leading Dr. Alfred C. Fones to educate the first dental hygienist, Irene Newman.

"Dental hygiene opens up paths of usefulness, activity, and inspiration hitherto undreamed of, allying her with the workers of the world who are helping humanity in masses". **

Emphasis was placed on the dental hygienist as an outreach worker to bring patients in need of restorative dental care, in particular school children, to private dental practices. The effectiveness of the care provided in communities and schools by a dental hygienist quickly spread to the private dental practice. Consequently, for decades the majority of dental hygiene positions have been held in private employment settings.

For various reasons, access to oral health care in a private practice setting by certain populations has become difficult. Our nation's health care leaders are quickly realizing the important connection between oral health and total health. Being part of a health care profession that is truly focused on prevention as its core foundation, dental hygienists are well-placed to play a key role in expanding the delivery of health care services to prevent and help treat disease while it is still manageable.

As our nation's health care system struggles to provide effective care for all of its citizens, this is an important time for dental hygienists to adopt a holistic view of health care and fill new roles to provide equal access to oral health care. An essential first move is for dental hygienists and dentists to reflect back to the time when dental hygiene was introduced as a "public" health profession and the impact that it made. Collaborative Practice dental hygienists in Minnesota are playing active roles in the delivery of care to Minnesota Health Care Program enrollees and to the growing number of un-insured populations in a range of settings: schools, public health clinics, mobile dental units. Emphasis by both dental hygienists and dentists is now wisely being placed on interdisciplinary health care delivery options.

As one of the top ten fastest growing health professions in the country, the dental hygiene workforce is well positioned to effect change as our health care system seeks to improve and streamline the delivery of oral health and total care for all. ***


* Thomson, D.J., 1995. Physicians' perceptions of nurse-physician collaborative practice. Florida Atlantic University. MSN Dissertation.

** Nathe, C.N., 2001. As written in Dental Public Health: Contemporary practice for the dental hygienist. New Jersey: Prentice Hall. (4).

*** American Dental Hygienists' Association. July 10, 2010. ADHA Offers Testimony at CMS National Dental Medicaid Dental Town Hall

- Clare Larkin July 16, 2010, 6-23-11

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Generous additional funding to maintain a quality website has been granted by Delta Dental of Minnesota. Thank You!