Purpose: The three main objectives of this study were to assess if the Alberta, Canada public perceives dental hygienists as competent to practice without the supervision of a dentist, whether or not they would choose to be treated by independent dental hygienists, and if they believed that these services should be covered by dental insurance.
Methods: The University of Alberta population research lab conducted a random digit dialing telephone survey of Alberta residents, regarding access to dental hygiene services and willingness to visit an independent dental hygiene practitioner. There were 1,202 residents (49.6% males and 50.4% females, 18-64 years), evenly distributed among urban and rural areas, who were interviewed. The estimated sampling error, at the 95% confidence level, was accurate + 2.9%.
Results: Of the respondents, 65.8% stated that they would visit an independent dental hygienist and that dental hygienists should have the ability to provide services, within their scope of practice, without being supervised. This response was consistent, irrespective of the geographic area, gender or income. When asked about their reasons for choosing an independent dental hygienist, 68.8% believed visiting a dental hygienist is important in the healthy treatment of their mouth, while 58.4% wanted the freedom to choose, and 56.3% believed dental hygiene care would save them money. They also indicated that they would visit an independent dental hygienist in a variety of sites, including a health center (45%), a mobile clinic (21.5%), an independent practice site (45%), and in a dentist's office (64.9%). Ninety-two percent of the respondents said that independent dental hygiene services should be covered by dental insurance.
Conclusion: The results show that the public supports dental hygienists gaining independent practice, and that they trust the level of care provided by the dental hygiene profession.