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Features / January 30, 2024

Navigating the future of dental hygiene

by Yvonne Howell

Yvonne Howell looks ahead to the new year, and explores what’s in store for the Irish Dental Hygienists Association.

The Irish Dental Hygienists Association (IDHA) had another strong year in 2023. We hosted a successful annual conference in the Midlands Park Hotel in Portlaoise, which had a strong hands-on programme. 

We hope to ensure that ongoing access to high quality training programmes and conferences continue for the professional development of our members. 

It is also important that we continue to expand and support educational opportunities for our members in supporting and promoting research initiatives that will advance the field of dental hygiene going forward.

The IDHA’s passion lies in education and growth for the dental profession. We strive to encourage our members to keep developing their professional skills in whatever capacity they feel matches their aspirations, while also keeping up to date with CPD. 

As we all know, CPD isn’t just important for career progression, it also improves quality of care by ensuring all staff within the dental team have the skills they need to treat patients. 

We aim to continue providing you with study groups and webinars to achieve this, so watch this space.

Celebrating achievements 

This year, we will be introducing an initiative that will celebrate the achievements and contributions of IDHA members. 

It is important as an organisation that we formally acknowledge individuals of their outstanding contributions, achievements, and representation for our association. 

We hope that this will demonstrate our appreciation and will motivate continued excellence and engagement among our profession. 

Overcoming challenges

The dental profession has recently drawn attention to the ongoing issues with the dental services in Ireland. This is not new to us. Highlighting a 10-year backlog for dental services and extractions on children who were failed by the school screening system! 

This is not acceptable in modern day society; the public and parents deserve better dental care services. 

As highly trained professionals, we play a crucial role in promoting oral health and preventing dental disease, however we face huge challenges and restrictions with our scope of practice. This limits our ability to provide comprehensive care and better serve the patients of Ireland.

As dental hygienists, we can contribute significantly to public health initiatives, such as school-based dental programmes, community, and preventive care in underserved areas. 

By investing in these programmes we can utilise our skills to the fullest and provide better services to the public. Yes, we need more dentists but we need more dental hygienists too, and to start utilising our expert skill sets to their full potential. 

Encouraging integration into primary care teams, such as community health centres, can improve access to preventive dental care.

Awareness and education

As the professional organisation for the dental hygienists of Ireland, we will continue to advocate for policy changes that better align our skills with the evolving healthcare needs in Ireland. 

We continuously strive to work with government bodies and our regulatory bodies to update practice guidelines.

However, as practitioners, educators, researchers, and industry professionals, it is our responsibility to adapt, innovate, and stay ahead of the curve to provide the best care for our patients. 

Many people in Ireland may not fully understand the role and capabilities of dental hygienists. We must raise public awareness and educate about the services dental hygienists can provide and the importance in maintaining good oral health. 

Recognising the underutilisation of dental hygienists in Ireland is the first step towards maximising our full potential and improving oral health outcomes for the population. 

Advocacy, education, policy changes and collaboration are key factors that can help address this issue and create a more comprehensive and accessible oral healthcare system.

Not only is it time to take periodontal disease seriously but it is also time to take our professional dental hygienist role seriously!

As we all embark on this journey, the success of our future plans relies on the collective effort, passion and dedication of each member. 

So, this year, I hope we can all work together and navigate the future of dental hygiene and make a lasting impact on the oral health and wellbeing of the our people!

Your association

I would like to thank all our members for their continued support. The committee is only the voice of the members, we cannot do it alone – we need your support, too. 

I invite each of you to actively engage. Your input and ideas are instrumental in achieving our goals and we look forward to hearing about your aspirations. 

The IDHA annual scientific conference will take place this year as a two-day event on 11 and 12 October 2024 in the Galway Bay Hotel, Galway. 

Save the date in your diary now and keep an eye on your emails and the IDHA social media pages for details of a very exciting and engaging programme.

For more information, visit