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History of Dental Hygiene in Alberta


With its singular mandate as a regulatory college to provide safe, effective, ethical, and beneficial oral healthcare services to the Alberta public solidified through Bill 46, the College is re-branded as the Alberta College of Dental Hygienists (ACDH).


The Dental Hygiene Association of Alberta (DHAA) is launched as a provincial professional association for dental hygienists.


Bill 46, the Health Statutes Amendment Act, comes into effect. It is the most extensive set of amendments to the Health Professions Act in 20 years, including the separation of regulatory colleges from associations and unions. This clarifies the College’s mandate as a regulatory college to provide safe, effective, ethical and beneficial oral healthcare services to the Alberta public. Associations exist independently, usually with mandates to advance the interests of the profession and/or its members.

Bill 30, also part of the Health Statutes Amendment Act, increases the number of public members appointed to regulatory college councils, complaint review committees and hearing tribunals. Recognizing the valuable role that public member play for regulated colleges, the number of public members increases to 50%, up from 25%.

Bill 21 applies consistent penalties to all health professionals regulated under the Health Professions Act for findings of sexual abuse or sexual misconduct. Under Bill 21, regulatory colleges such as the CRDHA are now required to provide funding for treatment and counselling for patients who allege sexual abuse or sexual misconduct by a regulated health professional, and post health professionals' discipline history for sexual abuse or misconduct on a public-facing website.


Beginning in the fall of 2017, the University of Alberta Dental Hygiene Program becomes a degree-only program. All Alberta dental hygiene students will now graduate with a Bachelor of Science (Dental Hygiene Specialization) Degree.


CRDHA celebrates 25 years of self-regulation.


A new Dental Hygienists Profession Regulation is proclaimed in force under the new Health Professions Act (the Act). The Alberta Dental Hygienists Association (ADHA), a driving force for this new regulation, becomes the College of Registered Dental Hygienists of Alberta.

There are no requirements for supervision for dental hygienists in the Act or Regulation and Alberta dental hygienists are authorized to practice to the full extent of their education and competencies. Alberta dental hygienists have the distinction of having the broadest scope of practice and widest variety of practice setting options in North America. This increases opportunities for the provision of dental hygiene care to Albertans, and results in the first stand-alone dental hygiene practices opening in 2007.


The ADHA supports the University of Alberta Dental Hygiene Program in its efforts to develop a degree program. Beginning September 2000, the University of Alberta offers a BSc with Dental Hygiene Specialization Degree, and a degree completion program (post Dental Hygiene Diploma) in addition to a Dental Hygiene Diploma. This is the first Canadian Dental Hygiene Program to offer students a seamless progression from diploma to baccalaureate degree.


The ADHA delivers the first administration of local anaesthetic by injection program for Alberta dental hygienists. Administration of local anaesthetic is added to the University of Alberta Dental Hygiene Program curriculum.


The Dental Disciplines Act is proclaimed in force, granting self-regulation to Alberta dental hygienists. Alberta is the second province, after Quebec, to grant self-regulation to the profession.

Self-regulation of a healthcare profession can only be delegated by government. The ADHA was authorized to be the regulator. Self-regulation is only delegated by government when it is in the public's best interest to do so and when the profession can demonstrate it has the resources, organizational structure, and commitment to carry out the necessary responsibilities. When professional self-regulation is delegated to an organization, the mandate of that organization must be to clearly serve the public interest. 

There are 744 practicing dental hygienists in Alberta.


By 1988, more than 300 dental hygienists are actively practicing in Alberta, with nearly 100 employed at local health units through the Dental Hygiene Public Health workforce. 

In 1984, the Dental Profession Act, is passed, which also establishes a Dental Occupations Council, whose purpose is to propose dental hygiene regulations pursuant to establishing a Dental Profession Act.  


Although the initial support for a dental hygiene profession came from the public health sector, private sector support is growing. With the advent of dental insurance employee benefit plans along with public demand for preventive dental services, dental hygienists gain popular acceptance in the private dental office.


In 1960, the University of Alberta and the provincial government reached an agreement allowing for an Alberta dental hygiene curriculum. In 1961, Ms. Margaret Berry MacLean is appointed as the inaugural Director of the School of Dental Hygiene, Faculty of Dentistry, University of Alberta.

In 1963, through the combined efforts of dental hygienists in Alberta and Ontario, the Canadian Dental Hygienists Association (CDHA) is formed and an executive is chosen.

The first graduating class of dental hygienists sees a need for a provincial dental hygiene association. By December 1963, a constitution and bylaws are approved to officially launch the Alberta Dental Hygienists Association. In 1964, the ADHA makes its first request to government for self-regulation, with 27 dental hygienists practicing in Alberta.

1940s and 1950s

Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, the Alberta Government examines the type of dental health service that it wants to offer in communities. In the mid-1950s it turns down a proposal from by University of Alberta's Faculty of Dentistry for a dental hygiene educational program. In 1951, Alberta's first dental hygienist, Ms. Joan Engman, obtains her dental hygiene education in Michigan, through a federal grant program, and returns to practice dental hygiene in Alberta. By 1959 there are nine dental hygienists practicing in Alberta, all in public health.

The Alberta government passes dental hygiene legislation in the fall of 1951. In 1952, an Order-in-Council repeals this initial legislation, leaving the practice of dental hygiene unregulated for more than 30 years.