Objectives: This study determined demographic characteristics, satisfaction with care, and likelihood of follow-up dentist visits for patients seen in office-based, independent, dental hygienist practices.
Methods: New patients were surveyed after their initial visits to independent hygienist practices to assess their demographic characteristics and satisfaction with care at both the beginning of practice operations and 18 months after the start of these practices. Follow-up surveys were sent to patients 12 and 24 months after their initial visits to the independently practicing dental hygienists to determine if patients had visited a dentist.
Results: Most respondents were white, female, had attended some college, and reported high family incomes. Ninety-eight percent of respondents were satisfied with their dental hygiene care. Follow-up questionnaires revealed that over 80 percent of respondents visited the dentist within 12 months of receiving dental hygiene care in independent settings. This level of follow-up care with dentists was found both for respondents who reported having a regular dentist at their initial visits with the hygienists and for those who reported not having a regular dentist.
Conclusions: Independent practice by dental hygienists provided access to dental hygiene care and encouraged visits to the dentist.