Purpose: The purpose of this qualitative study was to obtain in-depth information on dental hygienists' awareness and opinions of oral cancer, oral cancer examinations, and related factors. These findings were intended to supplement a previous statewide survey of Maryland dental hygienists on the subject.
Methods: A professional focus group moderator conducted two focus groups in Maryland. Two types of focus groups were used--one face-to-face focus group session with 10 dental hygienists in the Baltimore area and one telephone focus group among 7 dental hygienists who practiced on the Eastern Shore. Criterion-purposeful sampling and qualitative content analysis were used.
Results: Six major themes emerged from the focus groups: dental hygienists' lack of awareness of Maryland's oral cancer statistics, level of training to provide oral cancer examinations, provision of oral cancer examinations and barriers for not providing them, reactions to Maryland surveys of dental hygienists and dentists, assessment of oral cancer risk factors, and interest in additional training.
Conclusions: The focus groups provided in-depth information about why oral cancer examinations are or are not provided on a routine basis, as well as ideas for providing updates on oral cancer prevention and early detection for dental hygienists. Moreover, some participants recommended that updates on how to conduct an oral cancer examination be a requirement, as updates on infection control are now.