Oral health education provided by oral hygienists in private practice

SADJ. 1999 Feb;54(2):53-7.


The purpose of this study was to identify the health education services provided by oral hygienists working in private dental practices. A questionnaire was designed, pilot tested and posted to all hygienists registered with the SAMDC. Thirty eight per cent returned the questionnaire. Results indicated that an average of only 6 to 10 minutes was spent on oral hygiene instruction per patient. The reasons given for this were identified as lack of time and resistance of patients to change their habits. Education procedures most often performed were the demonstration of brushing and flossing techniques. The least performed procedures included the use of disclosing agents and periodontal measurements. A statistical significant correlation was found between the number of patients consulted per day and salary paid by the dentist. Hygienists who earn more treat more patients per day, but do not spend less time on providing oral hygiene information. Patient resistance is an obstacle to oral hygiene instruction and more emphasis should be placed on the psychological approach to behavioural change than on techniques of oral hygiene. More time should be spent on oral health education and follow-up appointments should be scheduled to support patients in maintaining good oral health care.

MeSH terms

  • Dental Hygienists*
  • Health Education, Dental*
  • Humans
  • Oral Hygiene / education
  • Private Practice
  • Professional Autonomy
  • Surveys and Questionnaires