Purpose: The purpose of this research was to survey U.S. dental hygiene program directors to determine: (1) demographic information, (2) specific Evidence-Based (EB) student instruction methods used, (3) if and how programs use an EB philosophy, (4) perceptions of faculty skills in incorporating EB instruction, and (5) opinions and attitudes regarding future need to incorporate EB philosophies in dental hygiene education.
Methods: Data were gathered by surveying all 235 United States dental hygiene program directors in 1999. The survey included 20 closed items and 1 open-ended item. Initially, the survey was pilot tested using a convenience sample of seven U.S. dental hygiene program directors. A final, revised survey was mailed to the cohort population. A response rate of 70% (n = 164) was achieved after two mailings, and responses were analyzed using descriptive statistics.
Results: The demographic results of this study revealed the majority of respondents were from associate degree/certificate dental hygiene programs (77%). Results revealed that most dental hygiene programs are beginning to include some fundamental EB concepts and skills into their curriculum, primarily by incorporating analysis of scientific literature. Most programs provide students with formal library orientation (88%), instruct students in the use of library indices or library databases (86%), and teach the use of the Internet for conducting literature searches (79%). Respondents indicated the major barriers for fully incorporating an EB approach in their dental hygiene program were: lack of faculty skills (37%), no available time (34%), lack of financial resources (33%), and lack of technical support (28%).
Conclusion: Findings of this study suggest dental hygiene educators have made small strides in creating an EB philosophy dental hygiene curriculum. However, the future of dental hygiene education must address the need for faculty development and training in areas such as computer utilization in core dental hygiene courses, strategies to improve the curriculum to stimulate students' critical thinking skills, and to develop educators' skills in the use of evidence for clinical decision-making.