Dental hygienists’ role in advocacy

The profession must continue to advocate for the oral health of a population

Dental hygienists who practice advocacy have a real chance at making significant improvements in the public’s health. As practiced in dental hygiene, advocacy is the action of trying to improve a population’s health in a logical and collaborative manner.

Dr. Alfred Fones defined the role of dental hygienists in advocacy when he wrote, “Those who may still be skeptical are finding it difficult indeed to suggest any other means by which similar good results can be accomplished for large groups of people.”1

Through the years, our professional association has consistently described the advocacy role, which exemplifies the significance of advocating for others in the practice of dental hygiene. Although the terms may have changed in the description of dental hygiene roles through the years, the practice and skill set of advocates remains.

The concept of social advocacy is probably the most common idea associated with advocate, and sometimes this can become quite political. The term can be used to span many disciplines but is predominantly associated with the business and legal worlds. There is really no political entity that owns the term because a social advocate is an individual who causes social change intended to benefit others. Although many disagree about the way to obtain a desired outcome, most agree on the final outcome, such as the improved oral health of a population.

Hygienists should continually advocate for the population. In order to do this effectively, hygienists should collaborate, be motivated to advance the practice, and have a deep desire to care for others.