Evidence-based practice and the professionalization of dental hygiene

Int J Dent Hyg. 2004 Nov;2(4):152-60. doi: 10.1111/j.1601-5037.2004.00095.x.


The application of knowledge is fundamental to human problem solving. In health disciplines, knowledge utilization commonly manifests through evidence-based decision making in practice. The purpose of this paper is to explore the development of the evidence-based practice (EBP) movement in health professions in general, and dental hygiene in particular, and to examine its relationship to the professionalization agenda of dental hygiene in Canada. EBP means integrating practitioner expertise with the best available external evidence from research. Proponents of EBP believe that it holds promise for reducing a research-practice gap by encouraging clinicians to seek current research results. Both the Canadian and American Dental Hygienists Associations support practice based on current research evidence, yet recent studies show variation in practice. Professionalization refers to the developmental stages through which an organized occupation passes as it develops traits that characterize it as a profession. The status conferred by professionalization privileges a group to make and monitor its own decisions relative to practice. Dental hygiene's success in acquiring attributes of a profession suggests that transformation to a profession is occurring. This paper compares the assumptions and challenges of both movements, and argues the need for a principal focus on the development of a culture of evidence-based dental hygiene practice.

MeSH terms

  • Canada
  • Clinical Competence
  • Databases as Topic
  • Decision Making
  • Dental Hygienists* / education
  • Dental Hygienists* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Dental Hygienists* / organization & administration
  • Dental Hygienists* / standards
  • Dental Research
  • Evidence-Based Medicine*
  • Humans
  • Information Services
  • Organizational Culture
  • Professional Competence*
  • Professional Practice / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Professional Practice / standards
  • United States