The changing landscape of the dental hygiene profession

By Maria Perno Goldie, RDH, MS

Ann Battrell

Ann Battrell, MSDH

At a recent workshop, Ann Battrell, MSDH, Executive Director of the American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA), discussed how the landscape of the dental hygiene profession changes shape through our individual lenses. The workshop included those from around the USA, and Canada, with a variety of life experiences. See Dental Hygiene in a Changing World: Empowering, Supporting, & Developing Your Career, in this newsletter, for more information on the workshop. This article will elaborate on some of the concepts presented at the workshop.


We all see the world through our individual perspectives, but society, health care, and oral health care all play a role in how we view change and how we see the world. The key questions asked of the participants at the workshop were: Has the dental hygiene world changed? Have we changed with it? Has the dental hygiene profession changed, and have we changed with it? Has dentistry as a profession kept pace with changes in overall health care?

Factors that influence dental hygiene are: the economy, insurance coverage, and education, access to care issues, employment expectations, and consumer expectations.


In order to change in our world, we must be able to assess our hard and soft skill sets. Hard skills include: advanced education and degrees; research skills; business skills; or public speaking skills. Soft skills include: a strong work ethic; positive attitude; written and verbal communication skills; time management abilities; creativity in problem solving; team player; self-confidence; takes criticism; adaptability, and works well under pressure. Ann discussed the book Emotional Intelligence (EI), by Daniel Goleman, which helps us to perceive emotions, reason with emotions, understand emotions, and manage emotions.(1)

emotional intelligence

An example of someone with low EI is an “if only” person, one who always states “if only”, as in “if only” I had an advanced degree, I had more money, I had better contacts, I had a different husband. A person with high EI realizes: there is a time to be assertive and a time to be passive; a time to work and a time to play; a time to confront and a time to withdraw; and a time to be patient and a time to make decisions. These are but a few examples, but I think you get the idea!

There are some strategies for promoting EI: taking the time for mindfulness; recognizing and naming emotions; understanding the causes of feelings; differentiating between emotions and the need to take action; preventing depression through optimism; managing anger through learned behavior or distraction techniques; listening for the lessons of feelings; using the “gut feeling” in decision making; and developing good listening skills.(2)

The educational implications of having EI are: one can identify and perceive various types of emotions in other learners; one can sense his/her own feelings and emotions; and one can incorporate perceived emotions in his thought. Emotional literacy holds the key to effective learning, and schools must create settings in which the emotional literacy of their teachers and students are developed. Educational systems should give importance to the development of emotional competence, and encourage students to gain proper understanding of the nature, intensity, situation and outcomes of his/her emotions.

One with high EI can exercise proper control and regulations over the expressions and use of emotions in dealing with themselves and others, to promote harmony. A person with high EI can develop social skills like leadership and building bonds between people, nurturing instrumental relationships in school and society. It allows the development of team capabilities by creating group synergy, in order to pursue collective goals.(3)

light chain

Emotional states affect health and immunity. Negative emotional states are associated with unhealthy physical states. Positive emotional states are associated with healthier states. In the cardiovascular and immune systems, secretory immunoglobulin A (S-IgA) is the first line of defense in the immune system.(4)

Increased occurrence of desirable events predicts higher S-IgA. Positive moods boost the immune system, and negative moods lower S-IgA levels. Undesirable events can suppress immune system, and negative moods are thought to increase susceptibility to illness. Norman Cousins in Anatomy of an Illness (1979), discussed his life-threatening inflammatory disease. He watched cartoons and Marx Brothers movies. Ten minutes of laughing gave him two hours of pain-free sleep. Laughter reduced his inflammation, and he proclaimed the healing power of a positive mood.(5)

As health care providers, we should be those who inspire hope in others. Patient’s expectations were described by Freud: “colored by hope and faith and an effective force in all our attempts at treatment and cure.”(6) Positive mood comes from a renewal of hope. We can help decrease levels of stress, and improve coping with illness for our patients, families, and friends.

What is your vision of the future?


The quality of relationships within an organization significantly impacts productivity or the quality of the product or service offered. Health care organizations and dental and dental hygiene offices are no exception. In one study of the effects of nursing structure and processes on selected patient outcomes, it was found that the relationships between nursing staff from different units was a strong predictor of patient satisfaction.(7)

Evidence also exists for the value of relationships in the delivery of patient care.(8) Performance matters more than ever, but is no longer measured on the basis of clinical skill alone. Excellence in supporting staff involves the ability to provide an overall positive health care experience for patients and their families.(9)

The objective of one study was to determine the degree of correlation between emotional intelligence of dental students, patient satisfaction and related factors.(10) There was a statistically significant relationship between general emotional intelligence score of the students and patient satisfaction. Patients of the students with high general emotional intelligence scores were significantly more satisfied with treatment than patients of students with low EI.

So, as we move from one phase of our lives and careers to others, are we able to cope with the changing landscape of our world? Look to mentors and your professional association to empower, support, and develop your career. In the words of Shakespeare, the world is your oyster!

1. http://danielgoleman.info/.
2. Shine a Light on Your Business, For Self and Business Improving. goldspink88.
3. Kumar S. A Seminar on “Concept of Emotional Intelligence”.
4. Immunoglobulin A Review. 2011. http://www.invivogen.com/review-iga.
5. Cousins N. Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient: Reflections on Healing and Regeneration. W. W. Norton and Company, Inc., New York, NY, 1979.
6. Sigmund Freud -1953- introduction to psycho-analysis-classic by Freud himself. Originally published in 1920. Freud. Sigmund: Introduction to Psychoanalysis, PREFACE BY G. STANLEY HALL PRESIDENT, 1920.
7. Sovie, M.D. & Jawad, A.F. (2001). Hospital restructuring and its impact on outcomes: Nursing staff regulations are premature. Journal of Nursing Administration, 31(12), 588-600.
8. S.S. Wadhwa : Customer Satisfaction and Health Care Delivery Systems: Commentary with Australian Bias. The Internet Journal of Health. 2002 Volume 3 Number 1. DOI: 10.5580/47a - See more at: http://www.ispub.com/journal/the-internet-journal-of-health/volume-3-number-1/customer-satisfaction-and-health-care-delivery-systems-commentary-with-australian-bias.html#sthash.K3D9kOmb.dpuf.
9. Alderman, M.C. (2001). Nursing in the new millennium: Challenges and opportunities. Dermatology Nursing, 13(1), 44-45,49-50.
10. Azimi S, Asghar Nejad Farid AA, Kharazi Fard MJ, Khoei N. Emotional intelligence of dental students and patient satisfaction. Eur J Dent Educ. 2010 Aug;14(3):129-32. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0579.2009.00596.x.

Additional Reading
1. Goleman D. Working with emotional intelligence (1993). http://books.google.com/books/about/Working_With_Emotional_Intelligence_b.html?id=yE1gHqW_T_0C.
2. Sasanpour m, Khodabakhshi M, and Nooryan K. The Relationship between Emotional Intelligence, Happiness and Mental Health in Students of Medical Science of Isfahan University. http://www.iomcworld.com/ijcrimph/files/v04-n09-01.pdf.
3. Lopes, P.N., Brackett, M.A., Nezlek, J.B., Schütz, A., Sellin, I., & Salovey, P. (2004). Emotional intelligence and social interaction. Personality and Social Psychological Bulletin, 30, 1018-1034.

1. http://info.newdirectionsconsulting.com/article-page-emotional-intelligence.
2. www.dattnerconsulting.com/presentations/ei.pdf.
3. www.csc-scc.gc.ca/text/rsrch/reports/r150/r150_e.pdf.
4. http://www.adb.org/publications/understanding-and-developing-emotional-intelligence.
5. www.ccl.org/leadership/pdf/assessments/skills_intelligence.pdf.
6. http://www.unh.edu/emotional_intelligence/.
7. http://www.scribd.com/doc/48559176/EmotionalIntelligence-JSchmitz.
8. http://www.visionrealization.com/Resources/Camper_Devel/Emotional_intelligence.pdf.
9. http://www.affirmativeactionhoax.com/pdfs/Goleman.pdf.
10. www.psychology.ccsu.edu/engwall/Emotional%20Intelligence.ppt.
11. http://www.eiconsortium.org/index.html.

Maria Perno Goldie

Maria Perno Goldie, RDH, MS

To read previous RDH eVillage FOCUS articles by Maria Perno Goldie, go to articles.

To read more about the ADHA, click here.

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