What do dental students at the University of Stellenbosch know of the education and functions of oral hygienists? [Wat weet tandheelkunde-studente aan die Universiteit van Stellenbosch van die opleiding en funksies van mondhigiëniste?]
The purpose of this study was to determine the knowledge of dental students regarding the requirements for the course in oral hygiene at the University of Stellenbosch, the functions of oral hygienists and how they rate the necessity of the profession compared with other health care providers. Students in their second, third, fourth and fifth years of study were asked to complete a questionnaire. Although obvious gaps existed in the knowledge of a notable number of students, the majority of students in all the years showed good insight into the requirements for and contents of the course and functions of an oral hygienist. The number of second- and third-year students who gave the correct answers were consistently fewer than the senior students, indicating that when dental students come into contact with oral hygiene students in their clinical years their knowledge of the course and the profession improves. The void in the knowledge of dental students which most certainly needs correction is the limited concept some of them have about the training oral hygienists receive in periodontics (especially the preclinical students), orthodontics, medicines, legal aspects concerning dentistry, first aid and diagnostic radiology. Regarding the functions of oral hygienists, their importance was regarded by many students as comparable with that of occupational therapists, radiographers, nurses, dieticians and dental therapists, notably higher than that of dental assistants and slightly less important than that of physio-therapists.