In Japan, there continues to be a shortage of active dental hygienists. The scope of dental hygienists’ practice is also considered to be unclear. One of the reasons for this is that dental hygienists find the working conditions during dental hygiene education different from those in reality. The purpose of this study was to clarify the actual working condition of dental hygienists in dental clinics, as well as evaluate the awareness of dental hygiene students and dentists regarding the working condition of dental hygienists.
Questionnaires were sent by post to 481 dentists and were distributed to 89 dental hygiene students. The awareness about the working condition of dental hygienists was compared between dentists and dental hygiene students.
Two hundred twenty-two dentists and 89 dental hygiene students responded to questionnaires. Dental hygiene students considered the team of ‘dental hygienist, dental technician and clerk’ to be more effective in providing dental care than dentists (P < 0.001). Among the dentists, 37.1% did not find any clear distinction between hygienists and assistants in their clinics. However, 97.4% of dental hygiene students answered that dental team members should clearly inform patients of the distinction between hygienists and assistants.
This study indicated that there was disparity between dentists’ and dental hygiene students’ perception of dental hygienists’ working conditions, and dental team work was not always effective. For training high quality dental hygienists, all educational institutions related to dentistry must educate students regarding the more realistic dental hygienists’ working condition, as well as benefits.