Working relationship between dentists and dental hygienists: their perceptions. – PubMed

The purpose of this study was to reexamine the working relationship between the dentist and the dental hygienist with regard to delegation and professional interaction. A questionnaire was mailed to Michigan dentists and dental hygienists to acquire data regarding dental hygiene practice, office procedures, and employer/employee interaction. Of the 500 dentists surveyed, 289 (58%) returned questionnaires, and of the 360 hygienists surveyed, 298 (83%) returned questionnaires. The dental hygienists’ perception of their practice is significantly different from the dentists’ in several major areas. More than half of the dentists reported checking the hygienist’s work all of the time, whereas only one third of the hygienists reported always being checked. Assessment of patient needs by a clinical caries examination is perceived differently. Most of the hygienists reported they perform clinical caries examinations all of the time, whereas only two thirds of the dentists reported the hygienist always performs an examination. Delegation of auxiliary procedures is viewed similarly by both dentists and hygienists, but procedures which can be performed are not being delegated. With respect to professional communications, half of the dentists perceive that they provide feedback to the hygienist all of the time, while only one third of the hygienists feel they receive feedback all of the time. In determining the recall interval, most of the dentists reported establishing it in consultation with the hygienist, whereas half of the hygienists reported setting it alone. Data suggest that the dentists’ perceptions are inconsistent with the hygienists’ in role delineation and patient care.

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