Dental hygienists teaming up with other health care professionals

As a follow on from my post on direct access for dental hygienists comes this piece from Nufar Kiryati, I realise it’s from Canada but “The times they are a changin’“.

Dental hygienists teaming up with other health care professionals

Dr. Alfred Fones, a dentist from Bridgeport, Connecticut who founded the dental hygiene profession in 1913, envisioned dental hygienists working in collaboration with other health and social service workers to provide preventive health care to the public. Fones once said: “It is primarily to this important work of public education that the dental hygienist is called“. He considered dental hygienists as the channel through which preventive oral health care knowledge should be delivered to the public.

We are going in the direction that Dr. Fones already envisioned 100 years ago. I think Dr. Fones’ ideas are very much valid today as we witness a new path of collaboration work between dental health care professionals and other health care practitioners.

As part of my mission to equip dental hygienists who want to change their career paths or enhance their existing careers with the knowledge and information they need, I am constantly researching what are the new trends in the dental hygiene arena.

In my recent global scan of the dental hygiene profession I discovered some interesting and exciting information about some of the major changes we are expected to witness that will have an impact on the dental hygiene job market. These changes include the expansion of the scope of practice to become an independent profession and an increase in the length of training, having countries like Japan that offers dental hygiene studies combined with nursing schools or social worker license as well. In addition, there is a surge in demand for dental hygiene services as the public awareness to preventive care is gaining its spotlight and the baby boomers retire and create demand for more preventive dental care. In 2011, the oldest segment of the baby boom generation was 65 years of age, marking the beginning of an important demographic shift for dentistry. As seniors, boomers will continue to require dental care more than previous cohorts of seniors. The association between oral and systemic health is becoming clearer and dental practitioners will become more involved in promoting their patients’ overall health.

The real opportunity here is to understand how these trends can influence dental hygiene career opportunities. Treating seniors with complex systemic conditions and acknowledging the fact that the oral health condition is directly linked to systemic conditions should lead one of the major changes in the dental hygiene arena:  working with other health care professions in group type practices.

People understand today that in order to live a healthier life, the body needs to be treated as a whole, viewing oral health as an integral part of our well-being. Therefore it is only natural to receive preventive oral health care in adjunct to other health care services. For example, a group practice offering dental hygiene services, nutrition support from dietitians, a family physician and a smoking cessation specialist – all under one roof!

In Nova Scotia, Canada, dental hygienists are collaborating with a team of nutritionists, licensed practical nurses and health educators to work together with students, teachers, parents, and the community to promote, maintain and improve the health and well-being of the school community under the “Our Healthy School” campaign which is a Health Promoting School initiative to promote healthier living. I am wondering why we are not seeing more initiatives like this one. Why aren’t we hearing more about independent dental hygienists working with other health care partners to offer a “whole body preventive” approach?

Is it the fear from the unknown? Is it the lack of knowledge about what exactly this business venture involves? Teaming up with other health care professionals could be easier then we think. After all, you will not dive into it on your own but rather have partner/s to work together with. The possibilities are out there – whether joining an existing group practice or teaming up with another practitioner to open up a new health care facility, you just need to choose your career path direction. Seeking advice from an experienced mentor and networking to find the right people to connect with can certainly help you move in this direction. It is truly a win-win situation when we team up with other health care professionals – the public wins because they get to receive a “whole body” approach to their health needs – treating their whole body and not just from the neck down, and the dental hygiene profession wins because we get the recognition the profession deserves from both the public and our colleagues.

Nufar Kiryati RDH BHA

Owner and CEO, Knowledent

Make your dream a reality. Dental Hygiene Career Change Consulting


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