To recognize dental hygienists who have made significant contributions to the dental hygiene field, the Sunstar Foundation has established the World Dental Hygienist Awards. Every three years, these awards are presented to a person or group at the International Symposium on Dental Hygiene. Applicants can compete in either the research category (one general and one for students) or the project/activity category (again, one general and one for students). The research category includes analyses that provide important new insights that contribute to the body of knowledge in dental hygiene. The project/activity category provides details of activities that have made a key contribution to patients, the community or the general public.
As JoAnn Gurenlian, President of the WDHA Committee and former president of the International Dental Hygienists Federation (IDHF), says: “I do think it’s important to have the Sunstar World Dental Hygienist Award, because, there are so many times that Dental Hygienists are making major contributions to the profession, but we don’t take the time to recognise them. We just go about doing our work everyday, and it’s important to celebrate dental hygienists, and show how much we appreciate them.”
A look back to all the winning projects
The 1st edition of the awards took place in Toronto, Canada in 2007. The winners in the research category (Birgitta Söder and Maha Yakob from Sweden) showed that high levels of dental plaque, severe gingival inflammation, and periodontitis all seemed to be associated with an increased risk for the development of atherosclerotic lesions in women. The winner in the project category (Elina Katsman from Canada) reported on her experiences with “Sonrisas” (Spanish for smiles), a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting oral health among children and adults in the Dominican Republic. More than 1.7 million individuals benefited from the activities of this foundation. The winning project in the student category (Tomomi Nishimura, Chigusa Takahashi and Eri Takahashi from Japan) discussed the results of dental hygiene interventions on a bed-bound patient who suffered from a stroke. These interventions resulted in a relaxation of oral muscles, a decrease in plaque accumulation, and improvements in levels of gingival inflammation after five months.
Glasgow, Scotland was the setting of the 2nd edition of the awards in 2010. Sherry Priebe (Canada), the winner of the research category, warned that oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) was often not being diagnosed in Vietnamese patients until the cancer was already late stage. She also demonstrated that several risk habits, such as smoking, betel nut chewing and alcohol use, were highly frequent in Vietnamese patients with OSCC. In the project category, winners Olivia Marchisio and Annamaria Genovesi (Italy) stated that therapy and maintenance of oral hygiene in patients with cerebral lesions are essential to the overall success of rehabilitation therapy while emphasizing the importance of a multidisciplinary approach. Maria Fjellström (Sweden), who won the award in the student category, showed that using a modified model of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) improved knowledge about gingivitis and resulted in increased adherence to oral hygiene.
The 3rd World Dental Hygienist Awards were presented in Cape Town, South Africa in 2013. The winning study in the research category (by Dagmar Slot from the Netherlands) demonstrated that using a 1% chlorhexidine (CHX) gel was more effective in inhibiting plaque accumulation, compared to a 0.12% CHX dentifrice and a regular dentifrice. The effect was comparable to that of a 0.2% CHX mouthwash. In the project category, winners Mário Rui Araújo and Cristina Cádima from Portugal describe the objectives of a public dental health project called SOBE, which aimed to integrate the topic of oral health into school libraries. The winning study in the student category, Tjeerd Blom from the Netherlands, searched the literature on the effects of mouth rinses on oral malodor. Both short- and long-term results showed that nearly all mouth rinses with active ingredients were beneficial for reducing oral malodor.
In 2016, the 4th edition of the awards took place in Basel, Switzerland. The research category had two winning entries. The first study (Rebecca Barry from the USA) presented the results of a survey among dental hygienists from Mississippi, USA. It showed that, regardless of operator position, musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) were very common in this group of professionals, and they developed MSDs much earlier in their careers than previously thought. The second winning research project (Juliet Dang from the USA) identified three potential new types of Human Papillomavirus (HPV) in oral rinse samples, possibly associated with oropharyngeal and oral cavity cancer. The winner in the project category (Sandra Kemper from Bolivia) reported about a non-profit foundation in Bolivia, called “Smiles Forever”. This program aimed to train low-income Bolivian women to become dental hygienists, who in turn contributed to improving the oral health status of more than 20,000 impoverished Bolivian children and young adults.
The 5th and most recent edition of the awards was presented to two winners in Brisbane Australia in August 2019. The winning study in the research category, performed by Danielle Clark from Canada, investigated the role of loricrin, a protein that contributes to the protective barrier function of the oral mucosa. The results suggest that low levels of loricrin could be considered a risk factor for developing (severe) periodontitis. Tan Minh Nguyen from Australia, whose study won in the project category, demonstrated that implementing a proper oral health prevention approach within the Public Dental Services in Australia could influence the type of dental services provided over a year to children aged between 0 and 12 years old.
As summarized above, the winning projects show how dental hygienists can reach where other dental professionals can’t, gain the patients’ confidence and trust, and help them understand how to improve their oral health. With these awards, Sunstar aims to continuously support this by giving opportunities to outstanding professionals that lead the way in the dental hygiene field. The next edition of the World Dental Hygienist Award is in 2021, stay tuned to the Sunstar’s social media and participate. We are looking forward to reading you!