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History of Dental Hygiene in Alberta


Beginning Fall 2017, the University of Alberta Dental Hygiene program becomes a degree-only program. All dental hygiene students will now graduate with a Bachelor of Science (Dental Hygiene Specialization) Degree.



CRDHA celebrates 25 years of self-regulation. 



CRDHA celebrates its 50th Anniversary.



A new Dental Hygienists Profession Regulation, is proclaimed in force under the Health Professions Act. The Alberta Dental Hygienists Association becomes the College of Registered Dental Hygienists of Alberta.

There are no supervision requirements in the Act or Regulation and dental hygienists are authorized to practice to the fullest extent of their education and competencies. Alberta dental hygienists now have the broadest scope of practice and widest variety of practice setting options in North America. This increases opportunities for the provision of dental hygiene care to Albertans. The first stand-alone dental hygiene practices open in 2007.



The ADHA supports the University of Alberta Dental Hygiene program in its efforts to develop a degree program. As of September 2000, the University of Alberta offers a BSc-Dental Hygiene Specialization degree, and a degree completion program (post dental hygiene diploma) in addition to a Dental Hygiene Diploma. The University of Alberta is the first Canadian dental hygiene program to offer students a seamless progression from diploma to baccalaureate degree.



The ADHA delivers the first local anaesthetic program for Alberta dental hygienists. Administration of local anaesthetic, by injection, is added to the University of Alberta Dental Hygiene Program curriculum.



In the fall of 1990, the Dental Disciplines Act is proclaimed in force. Alberta is the second province in Canada to grant self-regulation to dental hygienists (Quebec was the first). There are 744 practicing dental hygienists in Alberta.

Self-regulation is a delegated authority. This authority is only delegated by government when it is in the public’s best interest to do so and when the profession can demonstrate it has the resources, structures, and commitment to carry out these responsibilities. When professional self-regulation is delegated to an organization, the mandate of that organization must be to clearly serve the public interest.



By 1980, more than 300 dental hygienists are actively practicing in Alberta. At this time, local health units employ nearly 100 dental hygienists through the Dental Hygiene Public Health workforce. In 1984, the Dental Profession Act is passed, establishing a Dental Occupations Council. This council is to propose dental hygiene regulations pursuant to the Dental Profession Act.



Although the initial support for dental hygiene came from the public health sector, private sector support is growing. In the 1970s, with the advent of dental insurance employee benefit plans and public demand for preventive dental services, dental hygienists gain popular acceptance in the private dental office.

In 1974, a degree program in dental hygiene was proposed. The presentation to the University of Alberta’s Dentistry Faculty Council was approved in principle. Funds to support the program were available through the Department of Advanced Education, however, the degree program was not implemented.



In 1960, the University of Alberta and the provincial government reach an agreement that allows for an Alberta dental hygiene education curriculum. In January 1961, Ms. Margaret MacLean (nee Berry), is appointed founding Director of the School of Dental Hygiene, Faculty of Dentistry, University of Alberta.

The first graduating class of dental hygienists from the University of Alberta sees a need for a provincial dental hygiene association. By December 1963, a constitution and bylaws are approved to officially launch the Alberta Dental Hygienists Association (ADHA). There are now 27 dental hygienists practicing in Alberta. In 1964, the ADHA makes its first request for self-regulation.



Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, the Alberta Government examines the type of dental health service that it wants to offer in communities. In the mid-1950sitt turns down a proposal from by University of Alberta's Faculty of Dentistry for a dental hygiene educational program. In 1951, Alberta's first dental hygienist, Ms. Joan Engman, obtains her dental hygiene education, through a federal grant program, and returns from Michigan to practice dental hygiene in Albert. By 1959 there are nine dental hygienists practicing in Alberta, all in public health.

The Alberta government passes dental hygiene legislation in the fall of 1951. In 1952, an Order-in-Council repeals this initial legislation, leaving the practice of dental hygiene unregulated for more than 30 years.



Dr. O. Strong first introduces the concept of the dental hygienist to Alberta in 1924. The idea did not immediately take root.



Dental hygiene's beneficial impact on public health in other jurisdictions gains recognition. In Alberta, Dr. Strong's suggestion is again raised. Following the Second World War, the Canadian government offers out-of-country training grants to anyone who will return to public health service after completing a dental hygiene program of study.