Mentor Advice ForumCategory: QuestionsHow can I get in contact with more researchers?
Kylie Muir asked 4 years ago

I’m attending a dental hygiene school in Orem, Utah. I am looking for some information on research? Would you be able to help me come in contact with some more researchers than listed on this site under the interviews.

3 Answers
Denise M. Bowen, RDH, MS Staff answered 4 years ago

I would like to share with you the information I provide my graduate dental hygiene students. Good luck!

– What does a hygienist in this professional role do as a researcher?
Dental hygienists may serve as a project coordinator, data collector, principal investigator, or co-investigator in research. Dental hygienists rarely have the statistical background to serve in data analysis, but they could. These roles are well-defined in the roles of any researcher.

– What’s your typical day/week like as a RDH in research?
My primary role is as a professor at a university who advises graduate dental hygiene students in research planning, implementation, analysis, interpretation, and publication of results. I also have mentored many new faculty in research and publication as they prepare for tenure, as it is a university requirement for tenure and promotion.
Depending on which aspect of the study is occurring, I might spend my day completing literature reviews, selecting or validating research instruments to measure research outcomes, planning study protocols and subject recruitment strategies, applying for human subjects protection approval from the institutional review board, meeting with a statistician for data analysis, meeting with students and colleagues about all of the above, and writing manuscripts or research reports for publication.

– What personal characteristics do you feel an RDH needs to have to be successful as a researcher?
Personal characteristics: Curious, detailed, critical, inquisitive, innovative, analytical, patient and adaptable, good team player, attention to detail Skills: string verbal and written communication, interest and capacity for science, basic statistics, time management

– How did you get your job in research?
A graduate degree is generally required. After graduate school, I applied for faculty positions at research institutions supporting scholarly work.

– Would you say there are specific educational requirements besides RDH licensure? Is there a specific major that is preferred by this industry, rather than a BSDH or MSDH? What kind of experience is preferred prior to getting a research job?
Obtaining clinical experience in practice is an important building block for any alternative or advanced career. A PhD, or equivalent, is normally required, especially today. As there is no PhD available in DH, a related discipline in the area of a student’s interest is advised. Completing a master’s degree or doctorate which requires research is essential to obtain mentoring in the process from scholars. A familiarity with federal research requirements and regulations also is helpful. To get started:

  • Seek guidance from professors engaged in research
  • Gain research experience – look for a summer job or training program in research
  • Volunteer as a subject or research assistant
  • Enroll in a graduate program that requires a thesis or field study
  • Participate in a professional association and network


– Is there a high demand for dental hygienist in this field in your area?
No, there is not a high demand. Most DH researchers are employed in academia or corporate research & development departments/firms. Some positions can be available in large scale clinical practice corporations or state/federal level community health programs.

– Do you feel there are any positive aspects to using your license to focus on research instead of clinical needs?
It is definitely not a choice! A profession’s research is intertwined with its service role. The quality of care dental hygienists deliver can be enhanced by the research supporting it. Our profession and its practitioners need patient-oriented or population-based findings focused on the prevention, treatment, and control of oral disease. We need data documenting the cost-effectiveness of our care and our impact on access to care. As such, many research studies involve patients and dental hygiene services. I find the variability of research responsibilities, different every day, more interesting than full-time practice.

– Do you feel there are any negative aspects to using your license to focus on research instead of clinical needs?
Generally, researchers make less money than clinicians, at least for a while, until a track record is established. Also, the hours are long and not bound by normal work day expectations. It takes a love of research to sustain a career in research.

Gayle B. McCombs, RDH, MS Staff answered 4 years ago

I am not sure how close you are to a dental school, but my first thought would be to check out its website for ideas. Getting started in research may be confusing, but once you make connections, doors will open! If there is a university close by, read campus newsletters and departmental websites for information and current research and faculty research. You may find a researcher who shares similar interests or who is willing to let you observe, volunteer, or even hire you as a research assistant. You can be engaged in research in areas other than dentistry, for instance, nursing.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • Which areas of research are you interested in? If nothing specific comes to mind, that is ok, just look through the research that is being conducted and see where your interest or opportunities are.
  • What kind of skills do you have? If none, you can learn. For example, look online for basic clinical trials training for starters.

Once you have determined whether research is being conducted close to you, the next step is to identify a person/mentor with whom you can work, or perhaps volunteer as a patient or research assistant to get started and meet people.
Getting started is the hardest step, but read through your professional journals and see what others are doing and search websites for ideas and try to make contacts with other researchers in your area for ideas. Good luck to you!

Jane L. Forrest, RDH, EdD Staff answered 4 years ago

In reviewing the ADHA website, 4 entry-level dental hygiene programs are located in UTAH, two of which offer a BS degree and one is located in Orem. It may be that the student is enrolled in the BS program in Orem, and if so, she/he should start by asking faculty. If they are not aware of research opportunities, then perhaps she/he should contact the other program in Orem to see if there are faculty at that program who are involved in research and who could help her. After contacting local people, expand to the other BS programs in Utah. Faculty at Weber State University are involved in research and may be helpful. Another approach would be to look at graduate programs that have a strong research component. There are several online dental hygiene MS programs, one of which is UMKC (University of Missouri, Kansas City) and another is Idaho State University.
The following information comes directly off the ADHA website.
Updated on November 15, 2017
Dixie State University School of Health Sciences Dental Hygiene Program
225 South 700 East Taylor Health Science Building St. George, UT 84770
Web Site:
Degrees Awarded
Associate: AAS Baccalaureate: BS
Fortis College-Salt Lake City Dental Hygiene Program
3949 South 700 East, Suite 150 Salt Lake City, UT 84107
Web Site:
Degrees Awarded
Associate: AS
Salt Lake Community College, Jordan Campus School of Health Sciences Dental Hygiene Program
3941 West Wights Fort Road HTC 110B West Jordan, UT 84088
Web Site:
Degrees Awarded
Associate: AS/AAS
Utah College of Dental Hygiene Division of Careers Unlimited, LLC Dental Hygiene
1176 S. 1480 West Orem, UT 84058
Web Site:
Degrees Awarded
Baccalaureate: BS-DH
Degree Completion Program
Utah Valley University Science and Health Dental Hygiene
987 W. South Genevea Road Orem, UT 84058
Web Site:
Degrees Awarded
Degree Completion: BS
Weber State University College of Health Professions Dental Hygiene
3891 Stadium Way, Dept. 3920 Ogden, UT 84408-3920
Web Site:
Degrees Awarded: Degree Completion: BS-DH