Dental hygienists' contributions to improving the nation's oral health through school-based initiatives from 1970 through 1999: a historical review.

Gayle B. McCombs, Cynthia C. Gadbury-Amyot, Rebecca S. Wilder, Karen O. Skaff, Margaret Lappan Green

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


PURPOSE: The purpose of this literature review is to document the contributions dental hygienists have made over the past 3 decades to improve the nation's oral health. This historical review encompasses selected literature that acknowledged dental Hygienists' direct involvement in U.S. school-based or school-linked oral health programs from 1970-1999. METHODS: Five researchers independently searched MEDLINE, PubMed, and other electronic databases to identify relevant literature for the years 1970-1999. The search aimed to locate articles authored by or that documented dental Hygienists' involvement as "service provider" in U.S. school-based oral health programs. For the purpose of this review, service provider was defined as educator, administrator, clinician, examiner, or any other unspecified service performed by a dental hygienist. RESULTS: Fifty-seven articles were retrieved, of which 36 (63%) directly linked dental hygienists to U.S. school-based activities. Twenty-seven articles specifically identified dental hygienists as service providers. Dental hygienists were listed as either primary or contributing author on 19 of these articles. CONCLUSION: The decade of the 1970s revealed very little literature documenting dental Hygienists' involvement in U.S. school-based oral health programs. The 1970s, however, were instrumental in laying the foundation for service in the years that followed. As public health initiatives expanded in the 1980s, dental hygienists were identified in the largest number of papers as key personnel in the areas of education, management, service provider, and author. The decade of the 1990s yielded less literature than the 1980s, yet recognized dental Hygienists' involvement in all aspects of oral health care delivery, program development and management, and authorship. The authors of this review theorize that dental hygienists were engaged in more school-based programs than reported and were involved in the authorship process more frequently than documented. Due to lack of credentials, or the omission of the words "dental hygienist," "RDH," or "LDH," in favor of "health care provider," "auxiliary," or "trained health care educator," it is unknown what portion of contributions made by dental hygienists remain undocumented.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)52
Number of pages1
JournalJournal of dental hygiene : JDH / American Dental Hygienists' Association
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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