Dental Hygienists: Critical Members of the Primary Care Team- By Jillian Tan BDSc., RDH

JillianTanJillian Tan BDSc., RDH, is a recent graduate of the UBC Dental Hygiene Program. She has an interest in policy, advocacy, and promoting the profession through her recent employment at a dental office in Langley as well as through her e-portfolio which can be found at, http://blogs.ubc.ca/jilliantan/. Jillian was gracious enough to share her thoughts on what it means to be a primary care provider in the blog below.  Thank you Jillian for sharing your thoughts with members. BCDHA thanks you for insights and perspective.

There are many roles that may be attributed to a dental hygienist: a clinician, an oral health advocate, an educator, a researcher, and administrative positions. However, an all-encompassing title for a dental hygienist should be a primary care provider.

To fully understand the role of a dental hygienist as a primary heath provider, it is pertinent to first know the definition of primary health. Primary health involves direct provision of health services, as well as facilitating access to other aspects of the health care system, including referrals and specialists.1 Primary health services may include: prevention and treatment of common diseases and injuries, basic and emergency services, referrals to and coordination with other levels of care (such as hospitals and specialist care), primary mental health care, palliative and end-of-life care, health promotion, healthy child development, primary maternity care, and rehabilitation services.1 Furthermore, it is important to remember that primary health involves all aspects of a person’s health. Thus, it is crucial to recognize the social determinants of health: income and social status, social support networks, education and literacy, employment/working conditions, social environments, physical environments, personal health practices and coping skills, healthy child development, biology and genetic endowment, health services, gender, and culture.2

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