To assess oral cancer prevention and early detection curricula in Illinois associate-degree dental hygiene programmes and highlight global health applications.
An email invitation was sent to each Illinois associate-degree granting dental hygiene programme’s oral cancer contact to participate in a survey via a SurveyMonkey™ link to a 21-item questionnaire. Questions elicited background information on each programme and inquired about curriculum and methods used for teaching oral cancer prevention and early detection.
Eight of the 12 (67%) programmes responded. Three (37.5%) reported having a specific oral cancer curriculum. Five (62.5%) require students to perform examinations for signs and symptoms of oral cancer at each clinic visit. Variations exist across the programmes in the number of patients each student sees annually and the number of oral cancer examinations each student performs before graduation. Seven programmes (87.5%) conduct early detection screening in community settings. All programmes included risk assessment associated with tobacco. All other risk factors measured were treated inconsistently.
Significant differences in training and experience were reported across Illinois dental hygiene programmes. Training is neither standardized nor uniformly comprehensive. Students’ preparation for delivering prevention and early detection services to their patients could be strengthened to ensure competence including reflection of risk factors and behaviours in a global context. Regular review of curricular guidelines and programme content would help dental hygienists meet the expectations of the Crete Declaration on Oral Cancer Prevention.