Purpose: The primary objective of this descriptive study was to assess if and when dental hygiene curricula provide practice opportunities to students in teaching patient/client oral health self-care techniques and whether that experience was prior to their first clinical experience.
Methods: Data were collected through the use of descriptive research utilizing a two-page questionnaire containing some open-ended items. The survey was mailed to all 255 accredited dental hygiene programs in the United States and Puerto Rico in August 2000; 174 were returned. There was no pilot testing. The primary mailing resulted in a 68.2% return rate so a second mailing was not deemed necessary. Program administrators were asked to fill in their responses or pass the survey to faculty members in the program who teach preventive dentistry. The participating respondents were asked to describe the preventive dentistry portion of their curriculum by checking lists in the questionnaire and/or by writing responses in space provided. Specifically, respondents were asked to indicate how their program evaluated students on teaching patients self-care techniques in a preclinical and clinical setting.
Results: Based on this survey, almost half of all dental hygiene programs provide a preventive dentistry course. The other half incorporates the appropriate information in a preclinical course. Approximately 80% of all programs responding offer a unit in their curriculum that focuses on patient education, and almost 80% evaluate students' patient education technique before they begin working in a clinical setting. The results of the survey revealed that nearly all programs view patient education as highly important and would strongly agree that patients should be able to demonstrate mastery of their newly learned techniques.
Conclusion: The results indicate that competency in student's teaching patient/client oral health self-care techniques is a priority for dental hygiene programs.