The professional socialization of dental hygienists: from dental auxiliary to professional colleague.

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Dental hygiene, as an emerging profession, has identified key attributes and attitudes of the professional socialization process that are necessary to a continued growth and ability of its members to serve the needs of the public. Restraints to the professionalization process have been identified as impeding both the growth of dental hygienists and confining the delivery of dental hygiene services to traditional and supervised settings. Research has demonstrated the educational preparation of both the baccalaureate and associate/certificate degree dental hygienist can provide the opportunity for professional socialization whereby the care provider attains those attitudes deemed necessary to practice in a professional mode. Studies have also indicated that dental hygienists favor full professional status for dental hygiene through support for self-regulation and autonomy. In the light of health care reform, full utilization of all members of the health care team will be the most prudent use of health care funds. As dental hygiene emerges as a profession, registered hygienists will need to identify and define the conceptual framework for the oral hygiene practice of the future.

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