Mentor Advice ForumResearch Opportunities
Jennifer Taylor Staff asked 2 years ago

I have been practicing clinical hygiene for the past 12 years and am interested in other working and even volunteering opportunities as a dental hygienist.  This summer I will begin part-time as a clinical instructor.  I am also interested in participating in dental research. I don’t know where to begin or who to talk to.  I have never participated in any research in my undergraduate or graduate education.  I was just wondering who I should contact or if you had any pointers on where to begin.

Jennifer Taylor, RDH, BSDH, MS

2 Answers
Alice M. Horowitz, RDH, MA, PhD Staff answered 2 years ago

A few things come to mind you may want to check out. First, because you will be teaching this summer, ask the school/department director for the name of the head of research in your facility. Make an appointment to see that person and go from there. Find out what he/she is working on and see if you can get involved. In the meantime, you may want to check out books or journals on dental research as the school you are in should have a library.  Also, you may want to check out any research courses available at the school and enroll in one or more. Hope this helps!

Patricia Lenton, BSDH, MA, CCRP Staff answered 2 years ago

Dental hygienists who are interested in oral health-related research have numerous options to consider.

  1. Basic science research typically takes place in laboratories and most often occurs in dental schools based in university settings. Typically PhD scientists oversee the laboratory and apply for grants to fund their research.  Their lab staff are often PhD students and often involve individuals working on biomaterials, microbiology, immunology, genomics, engineering, or other such science-based degrees. However, dental professionals may also be involved.
  2. Clinical research related to oral care products, treatments, or devices also typically take place in dental schools. The research may be federally funded; for example, by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), by foundations; for example, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, by their University; for example, using internal funds made available to faculty members, or by Industry; for example, a company like Colgate-Palmolive or Procter and Gamble may want a clinical trial run to test the efficacy of one of their products. Clinical studies need to have licensed dental professionals to record the oral health-related outcome measures used to evaluate the product.  For example they may measure plaque reduction, gingivitis reduction, pocket depth reduction, etc.  Dental hygienists often serve as the dental examiners or project managers for such clinical trials.
  3. Qualitative research related to oral health often involves survey research; for example, one might want to study the nutrition habits of families whose children have baby bottle tooth decay. These types of studies are often conducted by faculty members of dental hygiene/dental programs or dental public health organizations such as state-funded public health departments.
  4. Industry-related research is also an option. Many companies that manufacture oral health-related products hire dental hygienists to work in their companies. They maybe involved in the actual product development, testing, working in the community getting input from other dental professionals.

 Dental hygienists who are interested in research-related work, and who live in close proximity to either dental schools or oral care-related manufactures should begin with exploring the careers page on the websites of these institutions.  Hopefully they are active in their professional organizations, both at the national and local level where they can meet and network with other dental hygienists.
 Finally, the 5th Global Dental Hygiene Research Conference will take place this September in Bethesda, MD.  For more information, please check this website:
 I hope that this helps.