The practice of dental hygiene started in the United States in 1907, when Irene Newman, a specially trained dental assistant for Dr. Albert Fones, provided her first patient with dental hygiene care in order to prevent further dental disease, increasing the patient's ability to retain his teeth for a lifetime.* Before this time, it was common for teeth to rot and be removed.
The first dental hygiene educational program began in Bridgeport, Massachusetts in 1913.* The first dental hygiene graduates were sent out to teach people how to retain their teeth through good oral hygiene and preventive dental hygiene care. Since that time, as the importance of oral health and the value of retaining healthy teeth has increased, so has the distance between oral health and the access to care. Patients, especially those with mobility and health limitations, are challenged to see a dentist or dental hygienist in a traditional dental office setting.
There are several crises in America at this time, among them is the lack of access to dental care for low income children and elderly. One hundred years after the graduation of the first class of dental hygienists in Massachusetts, in Australia, the "oral hygienist" was proposed to provide basic preventive care for children in schools.** Since the mid 1920's until now, oral hygiene therapists have proven that in the rural areas of Australia, New Zealand, and Alaska, these specially trained dental hygiene therapist, or who are now being called advanced dental hygiene practitioners, have helped alleviate pain, stop oral disease, prevent disease progression, and educate hundreds of thousands of people.
Fast forward to 1987. In California, several hearty and headstrong dental hygienists were granted a pilot project to provided dental hygiene care to Californians unable to find services in traditional settings. After 17 years of successful practice, the RDHAP became a licensed oral health professional. To date more than 600 RDHAPs are licensed to practice in California.
Other states have licensed advanced dental hygiene practitioners, bringing the number of states increasing access to dental hygiene care to almost all fifty.*** We are happy to be have this site to facilitate connecting patients and practitioners. Welcome.
*. Albert Fones, Irene Newman, and the Dental Hygiene Revolution. Retrieved from http://bportlibrary.org/hc/education/dr-alfred-fones/
**. Australian Dental and Oral Health Therapists' Association, Inc. Retrieved from https://adohta.net.au/content/history
***. ADHA Direct Access map 2017. Retrieved from http://www.adha.org/resources-docs/7524_Current_Direct_Access_Map.pdf
Elena Francisco, RDHAP, MS has been practicing dental hygiene for over 40 years and has been an RDHAP since 2005.