The Canadian Dental Hygienists Association (CDHA) report there are now about 1,000 independent hygienists in Canada. This represents about 5% of a profession which the public commonly considers works inside a dental practice. It also represents significant growth in independent hygiene — in 2007 there were fewer than 10, when Ontario first enabled hygienists to work independently.
But this movement is not alone. Look what is happening in medicine. About 1 in 4 medical practitioners in the US are now nurse practitioners (NP). The graduating class of NPs is almost 3.5 times the size of a decade earlier and the number of NP graduates entering the American medical labor force now exceeds the graduating doctors.
Some observers say that real growth in independent hygiene will only happen with an expanded scope of practice — in other words, only once this professional can conduct procedures involving invasive dental surgery.
This view assumes that dental decay and gum disease can only be managed with surgery, and that Canadians only visit the dentist to get surgery.
But then let’s consider the real world. Poor oral health can be managed safely and effectively for years and non-invasively with Prevora. Secondly, the primary reason for visiting a dental practice in Canada is to avoid surgery.
The real rate limiter on the future growth of independent hygiene is public awareness. Once the CDHA lets the community know there is a path to more affordable, quality care using the independent hygienist, there will be many more of these healthcare professionals.