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prevention International magazine for oral health No. 1, 2018

| special: dental hygiene in Belgium Oral hygiene instructions and patient motivation with and without dental hygienists An interview with Dr Eric Thevissen, periodontist and pioneer of Belgian prophylaxis Dr Thevissen, I wanted to talk to a dental hygienist in Belgium. Why is that not yet possible? Dr Eric Thevissen: Well, the good news is that, from June 2019 on, it will be possible to visit and talk to a dental hy- gienist in Flanders. Why Flanders has waited such a long time to start the education and training of dental hygienists is politically motivated and due, in large part, to the repre- sentative dental associations. Belgium has a long tradition of one-dentist clinics, often working without dental assistants. Since the introduction of a quite difficult admission exam for dentistry in 1997, the discipline has attracted fewer students. As a consequence, the number of graduating students has dramatically decreased, while the demand for dental care is continually increasing. Slowly, but surely, more and more group practices have emerged, hiring dental assistants. Back in 2006, the first meetings were organised between universities and dental societies about the qualifications needed to become a dental hygienist and the tasks that could be delegated to them. As always, there were propo- nents and opponents, and it took a very long time before all stakeholders agreed on the conditions and criteria needed to start dental hygienist training in Leuven and Ghent. Let’s talk about your study “The provision of oral hy- giene instructions and patient motivation in a dental care system without dental hygienists”. Please tell us more about it. Thirty years ago, I started working as a periodontist in Hasselt with another colleague. Since we were the first periodontists in this province, we had a flying start. After a few years, I noticed that dentists were always referring patients to our clinic with the same complaints, such as bleeding gingivae or bad oral hygiene. In my opinion, treat- ing bleeding gingivae or giving oral hygiene instructions is the duty of every dentist and belongs in the sphere of primary dental care rather than in secondary or specialist care. Although we organised courses where a general den- tal practitioner (GDP) could learn about patient instruction and guidance, I realised that we were considered by a large number of GDPs to be dental hygienists rather than peri- odontists. The truth was that we were both, periodontists and dental hygienists. This annoyed me because I knew that in neighbouring countries periodontists could spend their precious time on the work they were trained for. Dr Eric Thevissen 42 prevention 1 2018

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