Dental Hygiene Workforce in Iowa

The goal of this project is to examine the capacity of the dental hygiene workforce in Iowa. This project builds upon a previous study conducted by the Public Policy Center work that indicated Iowa’s dental hygiene workforce may be underutilized, with the intent to identify opportunities for improving access to preventive dental services for underserved Iowans. This project is being funded by the Delta Dental of Iowa Foundation and the Telligen Community Initiative.

Project activities include collection of information from dental hygienists about interest in and perceptions about clinical practice in public health settings, primary medical care settings, and teledentistry, treating underserved populations, and areas related to the dental hygiene scope of practice. In addition, we will examine geographic variation in workforce capacity across the state of Iowa. A component of the project will focus on dental hygienists working under public health supervision, including examining current capacity of this workforce and facilitators and barriers to expanding this segment of the dental hygiene workforce in Iowa.

The goals of this project are to:

  1. Measure the capacity of the current dental hygiene workforce in Iowa
  2. Determine the current busyness of the dental hygiene workforce and identify level of underemployment
  3. Examine attitudes toward working with underserved populations or via teledentistry to identify opportunities for utilizing the potential future dental hygiene workforce surplus in the state.

A project advisory committee composed of stakeholder organizations is providing guidance throughout the project period. The advisory committee is composed of representatives of the following organizations:

  • Iowa Department of Public Health, Oral Health Center
  • Iowa Dental Board
  • Iowa Dental Hygienists’ Association
  • Iowa Dental Hygiene Education Programs
  • Iowa Workforce Development
  • Iowa Dental Association
  • Delta Dental of Iowa Foundation
  • Telligen Community Initiative

Due to a projected surplus of dental hygienists in Iowa and nationwide in the coming decade along with a projected shortage of dentists, the US Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) suggests that maximizing use of dental hygienists may help to buffer the projected dentist shortage. If excess dental hygiene workforce capacity exists in Iowa, there may be opportunities to redirect this capacity toward improving access to preventive services for Iowa’s vulnerable populations.