Advancing dental public health and dental hygiene research

March 1, 2013
Have you checked out the dental hygiene journals lately? They're absolutely packed with dental hygiene research.

by Christine Nathe, RDH, MS

Have you checked out the dental hygiene journals lately? They're absolutely packed with dental hygiene research. What does this have to do with the dental public health column? Dental public health is basically oral health care, research, and education, with an emphasis on the utilization of the dental hygiene sciences to a target population. Further, a core function of public health includes research, and a major service focus area for public health practitioners is researching new insights and innovative solutions to health problems. So, dental hygiene research is absolutely inherent in dental public health.

Look at some recent titles of research in the sidebar with this article. These topics signify important information about dental hygiene, dental hygienists, and dental public health. When the profession is researching dental care delivery methods, preventive modalities, dental disease, and workforce, what will occur? Simply put, a redefinition of dental hygiene and how we practice. Why is this important? To me, it signifies an important first step in advancing our profession. When our profession advances, the treatment we provide should have better outcomes, cost-effective solutions should commence, and there should be many other improvements for dental care delivery in general.

Michele Darby once said that the great value of research is in its contribution to the body of knowledge that can be used by practitioners. She further stated that a vital characteristic of a profession is the ability to develop and validate a body of knowledge that is unique. I believe, as a profession, we are on the right track. The American Dental Hygienists' Association (ADHA) National Research Agenda identifies the following priorities:

  • Health promotion/disease prevention
  • Health services research
  • Professional education and development
  • Clinical dental hygiene care
  • Occupational health and safety

As part of the professional dental hygiene community, ADHA proposes these priorities as mechanisms to guide research, enhance patient-centered care, improve the quality of services, and foster other professional efforts.1

This is a great time to be a dental hygienist. We're advancing as a profession in a multitude of ways, and conducting research helps the profession and the patients we serve. To close with another thought from Darby — "Society has a right to dental hygiene care provided by professionals who possess a substantial theoretical foundation for exercising judgment and improving oral health care." We are responsible, as dental hygienists, for both our practice and our science. I could not agree more! RDH

Journal of Dental Hygiene Studies Fall 2012 Issue

  • The role of the dental hygienist in conducting rapid HIV testing
  • Treatment modalities for drug-induced gingival enlargement
  • Tooth jewelry in an 8-year-old child: case report
  • A randomized controlled trial of the effect of standardized patient scenarios on dental hygiene Students' confidence in providing tobacco dependence counseling
  • Maryland dental hygienists' knowledge, opinions, and practices regarding dental caries prevention and early detection
  • Dental hygienist attitudes toward providing care for the underserved population
  • Effects of dental magnification lenses on indirect vision: a pilot study

International Journal of Dental Hygiene November 2012 Issue

  • Relationship between obesity/overweight status, sugar consumption and dental caries among adolescents in South India
  • Oral health of psychiatric patients: the nurse's perspective
  • Diabetes screening at the periodontal visit: patient and provider experiences with two screening approaches
  • Oral health status and reasons for not attending dental care among 12- to 16-year-old children with Down syndrome in special needs centers in Jordan
  • Predictors of work-related musculoskeletal disorders among dental hygienists
  • Enhancing meaningful learning and self-efficacy through collaboration between dental hygienists and physiotherapist students – a scholarship project
  • Comparison of three forms of teaching – a prospective randomized pilot trial for the enhancement of adherence
  • Periodontal dressing may influence the clinical outcome of nonsurgical periodontal treatment: a split-mouth study


1. For more information on the ADHA National Research Agenda, please see

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

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