Didactic and clinical nutrition content in dental hygiene programs: Directors' perspective

J Dent Educ. 2022 Nov 29. doi: 10.1002/jdd.13145. Online ahead of print.


Purpose: Concern over inadequacy and implementation processes of nutritional content in dental hygiene education program (DHEP) curriculum policy at both a didactic level and clinical level exists. The purpose of this qualitative study was to examine the DHEP extent and practices of didactic and clinical nutrition content, identify DHEP barriers to increasing nutrition education content, and determine the need for a nutrition content curriculum standard from the director's perspective.

Methods: A qualitative descriptive design was utilized, and DHEP directors were recruited through purposive sampling. Interviews were transcribed directly following each interview and data was analyzed simultaneously. The thematic analysis process was a hybrid approach incorporating both the inductive and deductive approaches.

Results: Four major themes emerged from the study: value of nutrition services, power, capacity building expectations, and nutrition curriculum distribution. The directors' intentions with nutritional content for the DHEP were not consistent with what occurred in implementation. The findings revealed a disconnect in the directors' ability to implement adequate nutrition curriculum content. The lack of power as the educational leader in the form of decreased autonomy due to policy implications filtered across all interviews. The findings further noted the capacity building expectations needed among DHEPs in the areas of faculty and student calibration.

Conclusions: Multiple challenges impact the ability of program directors to implement accurate and adequate didactic and clinical related nutrition content in DHEPs. Future research, including DHEP directors and faculty teaching nutrition courses across the United States, would be beneficial in developing a broader perspective and creating a nutrition model standard.

Keywords: dental hygiene clinical applications; dental hygiene curriculum; dental hygiene nutrition standards; nutrition education; nutritional counseling.