Research reveals the effect of COVID-19 on dental hygienists
Research reveals the effect of COVID-19 on dental hygienists

Research reveals the effect of COVID-19 on dental hygienists

News – CHICAGO, 22 February 2022 – – Almost two years into the pandemic with widespread availability of COVID-19 vaccines and a decrease in infections, new studies show that dental hygienists have low COVID-19 infection rates and high vaccination acceptance. In addition, less than half of the dental hygienists who left work early in the pandemic have returned to the workforce in 2021, and staffing challenges exacerbated by the pandemic continue.

The research, published in the February issue of The Journal of Dental Hygiene, is part of a research collaboration between the American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA) and the American Dental Association (ADA) on the impact of COVID-19 on employment, infection prevention and vaccine acceptance among dental hygienists. The data updated results from a previous longitudinal study conducted over a 12-month period from September 2020 to August 2021 with a panel of 6,976 dental hygienists across the United States, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

“This study of dental hygienists has shown us the profound impact of COVID-19 on clinical practice, as well as the value of disease prevention measures,” said JoAnn Gurenlian, RDH, MS, Ph.D., AFAAOM, a lead author of the research and ADHAs Director of Education and Research. ‚ÄúSafety in the workplace is of crucial importance for dental hygienists, and it has an impact on employment patterns. This underscores the need to comply with the guidelines on infection control and proper PPE. ”

Infection and vaccination rates

Despite initial concerns that dental hygienists had an increased risk of COVID-19, the updated research shows that they have a lower cumulative prevalence of COVID-19 (8.8%) than the general US population (11.7%) . Results also reveal that 75.4% of U.S. dental hygienists have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, a higher proportion than the general public and non-dental health professionals in general at that time.

“We are pleased to see that dental hygienists have shown continued low incidence of infections and high vaccination, proving the profession’s ability to reduce risk while providing care in a safe manner,” said Cameron G. Estrich, MPH, Ph.D. ., Health Research Analyst at ADA Science & Research Institute. “Increased availability of vaccines and greater supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) should further enable dental teams to continue to follow infection prevention measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.”

The challenges continue in employment

By August 2021, less than half of the dental hygienists who left work during the pandemic had returned to work. According to the survey, 7.9% of respondents who had been employed in March 2020 did not work six months later in September 2020. When the survey ended in August 2021, this number dropped to 4.9%.

However, the pandemic has affected staff levels in industries across the country, and the dental profession is not exempt.

While the number of dental hygienists leaving the workforce rose from a high level of 7.9% in 2020 to 4.9% in 2021, a total of 1.6% of study participants no longer intended to work as dental hygienists, which may represent a permanent reduction of 3,300 dental hygienists. nation-wide.

“Unlike many other professions in the United States, the challenges with dental care continue, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated a voluntary reduction in the dental hygiene workforce and may continue as some dental hygienists choose to leave the profession permanently,” said Rachel W. Morrissey, MA, senior research analyst at ADA Health Policy Institute (HPI).

Despite recovery in dentist practice’s patient volume, dentists in the United States continue to report recruitment and retention challenges among dental hygienists due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to HPI data. The study’s authors note that future research should examine workforce levels after the disappearance of the pandemic, as well as dental employment perspectives from a qualitative perspective to provide a greater understanding of the influencing factors influencing decisions to return to or engage in employment in clinical practice. . .

Future opportunities for risk mitigation

Given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the emergence of new variants, the study authors believe that there are opportunities for hygiene to play an important role in public health and safety. However, there is a need for ongoing and increased training and policies to support the continued use of PPE and infection control and prevention procedures, as recommended by the CDC and required by public regulatory bodies.

“This research collaboration with ADA marks an important moment in oral health,” said ADHA CEO Ann Battrell, MSDH. safe for patients and help define lasting practice improvements that can emerge from this pandemic. “

ADHA and ADA will continue to work together to further understand the impact of COVID-19 on the dental team.

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About the American Dental Hygienists’ Association

The American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA) is the largest national organization representing the professional interests of the country’s more than 226,000 dental hygienists. Dental hygienists are preventative oral health professionals licensed in dental hygiene who provide educational, clinical and therapeutic services that support total health through the promotion of optimal oral health. To learn more about ADHA, dental hygiene or the link between oral health and general health, visit ADHA at www.adha.org.

About the American Dental Association

The non-profit ADA is the nation’s largest dental association, representing 161,000 dental members. The ADA, the leading source of information on oral health, has advocated for public health and promoted the art and science of dental care since 1859. ADA’s advanced research facilities develop and test dental products and materials that have advanced dental practice and made the patient experience more positive. . The ADA Seal of Acceptance has long been a valuable and respected guide to consumer dental care products. The monthly journal The Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) is the ADA’s flagship publication and the best-read scientific journal in the field of dentistry. For more information on ADA, visit ADA.org. For more information on oral health, including the prevention, care and treatment of dental disease, visit the ADA Consumer Website MouthHealthy.org.


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