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ADHA publishes environmental scan

Dec. 1, 2011
The American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA) recently published an environmental scan that showcased their strategic plan ...

by Christine Nathe, RDH, MS
[email protected]

The American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA) recently published an environmental scan that showcased their strategic plan for the next decade, which, of course, focused on many areas of dental public health. An environmental scan can be defined as an analysis of various factors that may affect an organization or profession. Basically, it studies factors such as the economy, society, politics, technological advances and other issues, trends, and demographics shifts that impact our infrastructures.

In particular, the ADHA contracted futurists Marsha Rhea and Craig Bettles and commissioned an environmental scan to help explore the future of oral health and the changes dental hygienists must make to contribute to the health and well-being of society. The resulting report focused on issues that could challenge assumptions about the profession and require the ADHA to explore new and often challenging opportunities.1

The ADHA board used this scan to make strategic decisions about the association’s priorities, programs, and services in the process of developing the new 2012-15 strategic plan.1

This report titled “Dental Hygiene at the Crossroads of Change” focused on the premise that, although many dental hygienists will work as they always have, some will be drawn to become pioneers in moving the profession to new places. These collaborative leaders will engage people and groups to work toward common goals that rise above their traditional roles, disciplines, and past experience.2 These leaders sound like advocates, with which many of you are familiar, and these advocate dental hygienists have been instrumental in building the dental hygiene profession as we know it today. Sounds much like the entrepreneurial dental hygienists spotlighted in past Public Health columns. These dental hygienists take dental hygiene to the path less traveled and, along the way, seem to make quite an impact. It comes as no surprise that this cadre of entrepreneurial dental hygienists will lead us to new possibilities.

The report focused on several key issues that included strategic questions for the profession. A table was also presented that highlighted the impact for the ADHA (see table). Interestingly described was the concept that although the job market would continue to be competitive for dental hygienists, new opportunities would emerge in nontraditional settings. Expanding access to oral health care may also be an influence on the dental hygiene job market.

This report was focused on the dental public health picture as a whole and where exactly dental hygiene fit in this picture. Even more enlightening was how many areas there were for dental hygiene to grow and to extend our influence of the oral health of our nation. One thought that kept hitting home was the ADHA roles of the dental hygienist and how public health is embedded in all of our roles, in the past, at present, and, it seems, in the future. Dental hygiene still has such untapped potential and so many possibilities in dental public health, that we are positioned to be a profession with room to grow!

Christine Nathe, RDH, MS, is a professor and graduate program director at the University of New Mexico, Division of Dental Hygiene, in Albuquerque, N.M. She is also the author of “Dental Public Health Research” (, which is in its third edition with Pearson. She can be reached at [email protected] or (505) 272-8147.


  2. ADHA. Dental Hygiene at a Crossroads of Change. Environmental Scan 2011-2021. Marsha Rhea and Craig Bettles, Chicago: American Dental Hygienists’ Association, 2011. Retrieved from on October 18, 2011.
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