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Implementing Environmental Sustainability Educational Intervention in Dental Hygiene Instruction

Implementing Environmental Sustainability Educational Intervention in Dental Hygiene Instruction

Purpose: The planet faces a climate crisis threatening public health. Dentistry contributes to a large portion of the waste output in the United States. The purpose of this study was to assess dental hygiene (DH) students’ perceptions and knowledge on environmentally sustainable dentistry (ESD) prior to and following an educational intervention.Methods: A convenience sample of second-year DH students (n=34) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) was recruited for this pilot study consisting of a pre-survey, an online educational module and immediate post-survey, and a final assignment followed by another post-survey. The educational module followed a funnel approach to educate learners on the topic of sustainability before narrowing down to how sustainability can be applied to dentistry. Paired t-tests compared pre- and post-module survey scores on changes in knowledge and attitudes. Univariate and qualitative analyses were conducted on the post-assignment component.Results: Twenty-five participants had qualifying responses for the pre- and post-module survey (71.4% response rate); 22 participants completed the post-assignment survey (62.7% response rate). There was a statistically significant increase from pre- to post-module knowledge scores (p < 0.0005). Most respondents (>90%) indicated that the follow-up assignment strengthened their learning experience. Qualitative analysis revealed that the assignment helped participants apply module concepts in the real world and adopt less wasteful behaviors in clinic.Conclusion: Instructional interventions on ESD in DH education may improve students’ knowledge of environmentally sustainable habits and encourage behavioral changes. Study findings can help introduce an environmental sustainability component to the DH educational curriculum.

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