Purpose: This study assessed the current employment status of dental hygienists practicing in Hong Kong, investigated factors affecting their employment, evaluated the satisfaction of local dental hygienists and their employers, and explored the career prospects of dental hygienists in Hong Kong.
Methods: All registered dental hygienists (n = 64), all dentists who employed dental hygienists (n = 25), and a systematic sample of dentists who did not employ dental hygienists (n = 278) were surveyed in June 1994 concerning employment situation, salaries, job satisfaction, and opinions on future prospects for dental hygienists.
Results: Response rates were 86% for dental hygienists (n = 55), 88% for employers (n = 22), and 63% for dentists at large (n = 175). Among the dental hygienists, 87% still were employed as dental hygienists, and both the dental hygienists and their employers agreed that the employment situation was satisfactory; however, several dental hygienists were considered to be working below their level of qualification. Major reasons for dentists not to employ a dental hygienist were having only one operatory and having an inadequate number of patients. In general, employers expressed satisfaction with the performance of the dental hygienists. Major reasons for employing a dental hygienist were that a dental hygienist would add professional and economical benefit to their clinic. Few dentists would support expanded duties for dental hygienists.
Conclusions: In Hong Kong, dental hygienists and their employers comprise a small group with limited impact on oral healthcare services. Dental hygienists' perceptions of their future roles and ambitions are higher than those of their employers. To further the development of dental services in Hong Kong and meet documented oral healthcare needs in the population, greater utilization of dental hygienists should be promoted.