oa Southern African Journal of Epidemiology and Infection - Knowledge and utilisation of expanded functions of oral hygiene and barriers to successful implementation in public healthcare services in Gauteng : original research
Dental hygiene continues to evolve as a profession. It needs greater regulation and autonomy. Since the burden of disease and demand for treatment is increasing, there is a great need for existing oral hygiene services to be utilised effectively and efficiently. The purpose of this study was to assess the knowledge and utilisation of the expanded functions of oral hygiene, and also to gauge the barriers to successful implementation of these functions among dentists and dental therapists in public healthcare services in Gauteng province. The study was cross-sectional, and 51 selected dentists completed a self-administered questionnaire. More than a third (n = 19, 37%) of the dentists did not know anything about the expanded functions of oral hygiene. Among dentists who did have knowledge of these functions, 66% (n = 19) identified restorative procedures as the scope of the expanded functions. Almost three-quarters (n = 37, 72%) worked with oral hygienists, but only 14% delegated some of the expanded functions. Regarding non-delegation, 70% (n = 22) mentioned that the oral hygienists were too busy to carry out these functions. Seventy per cent (n = 22) of dentists indicated that the expanded functions were never used in their workplace, and 50% (n = 16) reported the lack of patient need as a barrier to utilisation of the functions in the workplace. Oral hygiene services in South Africa need to be brought in line with international expanded function standards. The full use of oral hygienists in applying these functions should be encouraged and supported.
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