This is a summary, written by members of the CITF Secretariat, of:

Macdonald LK, Glogauer M, Allison P, Quiñonez C, Madathil S, Rock LD. Canadian dental hygienists’ experiences and perceptions of regulatory guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic: a qualitative descriptive analysis. BMC Health Serv Res. 2022, 1570 2022 Dec 22;22(1570). doi:

The results and/or conclusions contained in the research do not necessarily reflect the views of all CITF members.

A CITF-funded study published in BMC Health Services Research, showed that Canadian dental hygienists identified conflicting messaging from regulators and guideline interpretations as stressors impacting their professional practice and satisfaction in December 2020, early in the COVID-19 pandemic. One year later, they reported a positive shift in perception of how regulators disseminated and communicated timely guidelines, but still perceived inconsistent messaging. This study was led by Drs. Paul Allison and Sreenath Madathil (McGill University).

Key findings:

Early in the pandemic (December 2020):

  • Participants expressed anxiety/fear of becoming infected and general feelings of uncertainty regarding their safety while providing oral care to patients.
  • Inconsistent guidelines on the use of personal protective equipment/dental equipment and the employment of COVID-19 hygiene standards were frequently cited by participants as issues of concern.
  • Conflicting advice from dentistry and dental hygiene regulators were identified as a source of frustration for dental hygienists striving to be compliant with guidelines.

In 2021:

  • Participant responses at the one-year follow-up cited increased satisfaction with regulatory guidelines as the pandemic evolved, yet inconsistencies in regulators’ messaging prevailed.

Researchers reported the inconsistent guideline messaging reflects an increased need for collaboration among oral health care regulators (i.e. provincial colleges of dental hygienists, the Canadian Dental Association) to streamline protocols for practice in pandemic circumstances.

This was a prospective cohort study with participants identified through provincial dental hygiene licensing bodies. Online bi-monthly questionnaires were administered to participants (n = 876) from December 2020 to January 2022 for 12 months. The purpose was to identify how they experienced and perceived dental hygiene practice and their regulators’ guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic. Two open-ended questions were asked in the questionnaire, with a qualitative descriptive thematic analysis performed on them. To reduce potential bias and promote validity in the self-reported data, all participants were anonymous, and the researchers were blinded to participants’ identity.

Respondents were primarily female (97.8%), Caucasian (86.1%), with a median age of 42 years. The majority of respondents were from British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario (26.3, 25.3 and 24.0% respectively), followed by Quebec (9.6%) and Manitoba (9.2%).