Purpose: Dental hygienists have the unique opportunity to educate patients on connections between nutrition and oral health. Dental hygiene students are introduced to these concepts but struggle to gain confidence to share this knowledge with patients. This pilot study looked at an educational module on motivational interviewing (MI) and an assessment and counseling tool to build student confidence with nutritional counseling. Methods: Dental hygiene students participated in an educational module to review MI and introduce a nutritional risk assessment and counseling tool. Prior to the module, participants completed a pretest about confidence levels regarding MI and nutritional counseling. After three weeks of clinical practice, participants completed a posttest. Data was compared for quantitative changes and qualitative themes from responses. Results: Twenty-two senior dental hygiene students (n = 22) participated in both the pretest and posttest. There were statistically significant changes in participants’ confidence (p = 0.007) and comfort (p = 0.020) discussing nutrition with patients. Participants struggled to become more confident in MI as demonstrated by no significant change in their feelings surrounding MI (p = 0.150). Students reporting increased nutritional counseling sessions showed improvement in their confidence. Conclusion: Introducing MI with an assessment and counseling tool to aid students can improve confidence with nutritional counseling. This type of education may translate into more chairside discussions about nutrition, improving overall patient care.

Author Bio(s)

Heather Anderson, RDH, MSDH, is lecturing faculty at Eastern Washington University and practicing dental hygienist. Sarah Jackson, RDH, MSDH, is full professor at Eastern Washington University. Lisa Bilich, RDH, MEd, is full professor at Eastern Washington University. Craig Hunt, RDN, is lecturing faculty at Eastern Washington University. Elizabeth Tipton, PhD, is retired emeritus professor at Eastern Washington University.


The authors would like to thank the dental hygiene students at Eastern Washington University, Class of 2020 for their participation in this study.




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