June 1, 2005
by Dental Practice Management
With respect to your editorial comments, I would like to raise a few points. I agree with you that there is a tremendous need for greater access to oral health care for all members of society. There is a great deal of need that exists within certain segments of our population. However in terms of the direction that we need to move towards so that we may address this problem is where I am in disagreement.
The problem is two-fold. The first is about being able to provide timely and appropriate care/treatment to those who suffer from disease. The second is to provide a means by which disease can be prevented and health can be obtained. The former refers to access to dental care and the latter to the need for society/government to provide democratic access to knowledge that assists Canadians in gaining insight into the world of oral health.
To say that dental hygienists will be able to address the first part of the issue is a rather silly proposition. “Cleanings” do not solely constitute oral health. Hygienists do not have the education or the ability to address the gaps which have been identified. If the goal is to provide people from marginalized backgrounds with oral health, then we need to find ways in which these people can see a dentist. To say that hygienists can provide care at a lower cost is absurd. This does not take into account the cost structure of the industry within which we work. As well, you cannot substitute an appointment with a dental hygienist with an appointment with a dentist. You are proposing that an orange is an apple.
Hygienists currently play a huge role within the profession and they are an important team member. They have the opportunity to promote oral health and educate members of society on how they can remain healthy. Everyone on the team has a role. I identified the problem within society as having two components. If hygienists are not satisfied with their ability to work within their role, then they should do what the rest of us have done; go back to school and earn your DDS/DMD. If this is an issue of financial remuneration, then we need to address this issue, and not mask it as something which is for the benefit of society. I am a huge proponent of financially supporting members of society who provide a valuable service. Teachers play a very important role in society and receive modest compensation as compared to other members. These individuals usually have two university degrees and start their salaries in the $30K range. Is this fair and is this something which should continue? Most new hygiene grads start around $40K.
Wajahat Khan, SMStJ, B.Sc., DDS, MBA, M.Ed.