As presented to the Belgian Society of Periodontology
I believe in order to succeed, we must know the past, understand the present, and foresee the future.
In 1978, the University of Bari was the site of the first school for dental hygienists in Italy. The first 14 dental hygienists in Italy graduated in 1981. Also in 1981, thanks to the first dental hygiene graduates from Bari, the Associazione Igienisti Dentali Italiani (AIDI) was founded.(1) The goal of this Association is to promote the dental hygienists’ role within Italy.
A Ministry Decree from the Italian Government in January 1988 defined, for the first time, the professional roles and tasks of dental hygienists. In 1989, AIDI became a member of the International Federation of Dental Hygienists (IFDH). In 1993, the first National Labour Contract was signed in Rome, and the dental hygiene role was recognized.(2)
A Ministry Decree in September 1994 declared “rules concerning the Dental Hygienists’ location and professional profile.” Dental hygiene was then considered a Technical Health Care Profession in the medical care area. The Bologna Declaration of June 1999 put in motion a series of reforms needed to make European Higher Education more compatible and comparable, more competitive and more attractive for Europeans and for students and scholars from other continents. Reform was needed then, and reform is still needed today if Europe is to match the performance of the best performing systems in the world.(3)
This declaration makes an easier academic system, which includes a first level degree (three years) and a second level degree (two years). Dental hygienists second level degree is a degree in the area of technical health professions. Through this formative training, dental hygienists can access management positions in both public and private organizations. A second level degree also allows entrance to PhD programs and second level master's programs.
Currently, Italy has three national associations: AIDI, UNID, and SIDID. There is a national research association/society called SISIO. There are 6, 000 dental hygienists in Italy and 60, 000 dentists. In 2005, AIDI’s Constitution was strongly reformed. The most important changes made were: Association offices renewal; more democracy within the association; and more members’ involvement within the association’s activities. The DH Newsletter was started in January 2006 to celebrate the 25th year of activity of AIDI. It’s a scientific magazine free for all members.
Medicine is no longer the only branch, new health sciences have been born in the last years, with a variety of different professions emerging. There is a demand for dental hygiene practitioners, as this category has started to be recognized by dental professionals. The responsibility of performing nonsurgical periodontal therapy and bleaching procedures is permitted by to dental hygienists. Usually, the first visit is to a dentist, who then sends the patients to dental hygienists for the nonsurgical periodontal treatment.