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Practicing dental hygiene in the Kingdom of Bahrain

March 1, 2010
Happy 2010! I wish everyone a healthy, happy, prosperous New Year.

by Maria Perno Goldie, RDH, MS
[email protected]

Happy 2010! I wish everyone a healthy, happy, prosperous New Year. I would like to introduce you to Claudine P. Drew, RDH, CDA, MS, EdD. Claudine is an associate professor in the College of Health Sciences of the dental hygiene program in the Kingdom of Bahrain. Claudine has been a practicing clinical dental hygienist for over 40 years. She has enjoyed a varied career in many aspects of dental hygiene, including private practice, hospital dental hygiene, product manager for vital teeth bleaching, clinical research coordinator, education in both dental schools and dental hygiene programs, and one of her very favorite career tracks, international dental hygiene.

Two boys play on seated camel.
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The Middle Eastern Kingdom of Bahrain is 15 miles from the east coast of Saudi Arabia in the Arabian (Persian) Gulf. The small island is 15 miles wide by 35 miles long, with a population slightly over one million. Approximately 50% of the population is expatriates (guest workers). There is a need for dental hygienists and their expertise in prevention strategies and maintenance.

Recent dental hygiene graduate (2010) Amina Altaweel is awaiting placement with the Ministry of Health dental services.
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At present, there are 55 licensed dental hygienists employed in the country. Most of them work for the Ministry of Health (MOH), serving at one of the 19 health centers located in the different villages and sections of the island. Preventive services, such as sealants, maintenance visits, fluoride treatments, and home care education are the most important elements of the dental hygienists' duties in the MOH. There are a small number of MOH dental hygienists who work closely with the periodontists, while the majority practice with the general dentists.

The citizens of Bahrain receive free dental and dental hygiene services when attending the health clinics. Unfortunately, many citizens see the dentist only when pain occurs, and see a dental hygienist only while at the public schools when they are scheduled to have sealants. The concept of prevention in medicine or dentistry has yet to become an integral part of their lives. Due to the lack of demand for oral preventive services, plans are underway to attach these services to the very popular infant and child vaccination program. Bahraini mothers are very committed to providing vaccinations to their infants and toddlers.

This very well attended program starts with an infant coming to the health center for vaccinations at two, four, six, and nine months. The program continues once a year until they enroll in primary school at age six. An MOH pediatric dental specialist looks forward to having the dental hygienist work closely with the pediatric medical personnel during this period. The dental hygienist sees the infants starting with the ninth month vaccination visit. At this visit, he/she performs the preliminary oral assessment, instructs the mother/caretaker in home care for the dentition of the child, and explains preventive services. This program is currently being implemented. They are optimistic that this early and continual evaluation by the dental hygienist will introduce the parents and child to good preventive oral health treatment, which hopefully will become a health habit throughout the child's life.

Dental hygiene is a relatively new profession in Bahrain. It was introduced during the last 30 years, and a program was established in 1985 for educating dental hygiene professionals. The future of dental hygiene in Bahrain, as seen by one of the MOH first ladies of dental hygiene and now supervisor of the oral health programs and staff, Deena Abdul Rahim Al Balooshi, is twofold. First, she envisions the licensed dental hygienist having advanced training in the profession through a bachelor of science curriculum. The graduating dental hygienist currently receives only an associate degree. Secondly, she sees more expanded functions, similar to those of a dental therapist, delegated to the dental hygienist. She sees growth and expansion for her profession in the Kingdom of Bahrain. It will take time, but she is optimistic and patient.

While Claudine loves dental hygiene, she also likes to have fun. In Bahrain, that could mean a nightly ride on a friendly camel!

What does the future hold for Claudine? Perhaps another adventure! While her next exploit is unknown, she is certain to find an adventure that is fulfilling.

Plan to attend the 18th International Symposium on Dental Hygiene, July 1–3, in Glasgow, Scotland, entitled “Oral Health — New Concepts for the New Millennium: New Technology for Preventing and Treating Oral Diseases, Including Alternative Treatments.” Go to and click on the thistle. Registration for the ISDH program opens January 2010.

“It is in the realm of uncertainty that fulfillment is found.” Tony Robbins

“It's choice — not chance — that determines your destiny.” Jean Nidetch

Maria Perno Goldie, RDH, BA, MS, is president elect of the International Federation of Dental Hygienists. She is also a 2003 winner of the Pfizer/ADHA Award for Excellence in Dental Hygiene. Maria is visiting faculty at the University of Rome for the Interdisciplinary Master's Degree Program in Advanced Technologies in the Sciences of Oral Hygiene and a member of the International Association for Dental Research (IADR).