The American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA) has released a white paper underscoring the hygienist’s ability to perform dental hygiene diagnosis as part of the oral care team working to ensure that all patients are evaluated and treated based on their individual oral health needs. According to the paper, dental hygiene diagnosis is essential to dental hygiene care and scope of practice, yet confusion exists on how to implement it in daily practice.
The ADHA states that it drafted the white paper to help practicing dental hygienists understand and use dental hygiene diagnoses in their daily practice across a wide variety of care settings. Also, the organization is providing tools and resources for dental hygiene educators to help them teach dental hygiene diagnosis to students.
The ADHA defines dental hygiene diagnosis as “the identification of an individual’s health behaviors, attitudes, and oral healthcare needs for which a dental hygienist is educationally qualified and licensed to provide. The dental hygiene diagnosis requires evidence-based critical analysis and interpretation of assessments to reach conclusions about the patient’s dental hygiene treatment needs.”
“Through dental hygiene diagnoses, dental hygienists educate patients on behaviors that minimize risks of oral infections, help detect risk factors for infectious diseases and cancers of the head and neck,” said ADHA president Betty Kabel, RDH. “This elevates the role of the dental hygienist within the overall healthcare system, as we seek to expand the access to oral care. It’s important to utilize the dental hygiene diagnoses regularly and consistently to ensure optimal care for our patients.”
The scope of the dental hygienist’s practice varies from state to state. The ADHA encourages its members to fully utilize their education to provide oral healthcare services that fall within their scope, especially for populations that lack adequate access to oral healthcare services. The organization also urges policymakers to use the new white paper as a resource for making decisions about state practice acts.