Purpose: The purpose of this study was to determine the factors that influence the retention and attrition of dental hygienists within the workforce in Texas. Respondents' perception of the role of employee benefits and practice of dental hygiene on career retention were explored. Demographic descriptors, including educational level, marital status, age, employment setting, and practice statuses, were also examined.
Methods: A questionnaire modified from the American Dental Hygienists' Association Extension Study: Retention of Dental Hygienists in the Workforce Final Report, April 1992, was mailed to a systematic sample of licensed Texas dental hygienists in March 1999. Descriptive statistics were computed for dental hygienists currently in practice in Texas and those not in practice at the time of the survey. Differences in demographics, benefits, and attitudes between dental hygienists currently in practice in Texas and dental hygienists not in practice at the time of the survey were tested using independent t-tests for interval data and chi-squared tests for categorical data. All statistical analyses were conducted using the Statistical Package for Social Scientists (SPSS v. 9, Chicago, Illinois).
Results: A response rate of 68.1% was obtained. Results revealed the primary reasons for remaining in the practice of dental hygiene were salary, family responsibility, professional collaboration, and variety of work. The primary reasons for leaving dental hygiene practice were family responsibility, boredom, salary, and lack of benefits. Secondary and tertiary reasons stated for staying in clinical practice revealed additional factors including benefits, participation in decision-making, and a safe environment. Dental hygienists in clinical practice were more likely to be employed by a dentist in a single practice and see more patients per day, have a certificate or associate's degree, be unmarried, have fewer children, and be younger than dental hygienists not in practice.
Conclusion: The findings suggest that dental hygienists in Texas who remain in the workforce are positively influenced primarily by salary. Dental hygienists in Texas who had left the workforce were primarily influenced to leave practice because of family responsibility. Boredom and lack of benefits were also important factors in deciding to leave clinical practice. Employers of dental hygienists need to be aware of these factors in the hiring process. In addition, dental hygiene educators should prepare students in interviewing techniques for better communication regarding retention factors.