Date of Award

Fall 2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Dental Hygiene


Dental Hygiene

Committee Director

Ann Bruhn

Committee Member

Jonna Bobzien

Committee Member

Norou Diawara


Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine the barriers to accessing professional dental care for Virginia children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) as a mechanism for evaluating dental hygiene curricula. Methods: Data was collected via Qualtrics® from caregivers of one or more children with ASD who were part of Families of Autistic Children in Tidewater (FACT). The survey was distributed through FACT to all 200 members (N=200) via an email link, and a response rate of 28.5% (N=57) was obtained. Linear regression and logistic regression models were used to analyze data at the p=.05 level of significance. Results: Most of the children of the respondents were male (78.95%), Caucasian (63.16%), and an average age of 11 years. A majority of participants’ children (92.98%) had dental insurance. Respondents who reported that their children were Caucasian were significantly more likely to receive professional dental care (p=0.008). Caregivers of children with ASD who indicated a household income above $75,000 in the past year were significantly more likely to receive dental treatment compared to those with a reported household income below $75,000 (p=0.077). Children with ASD indicated to have a high level of cooperation, were significantly more likely to receive treatment from a dental professional within the last six months than children who were indicated as uncooperative (p=0.047). Caregivers who reported their child had dental anxiety were significantly less likely to receive dental treatment compared to those with a reported low level of dental phobia (p=0.025). Interestingly, more than half of participants (59.65%) had not received dental intervention methods to reduce dental anxiety. Conclusion: Results from this study indicate behavior of children with ASD was the main barrier to receiving dental care, including apprehensive behaviors resulting from dental fear. Dental and dental hygiene curricula should include technologies and intervention methods to increase access to dental care in children with ASD; specifically, to address behaviors related to dental treatment fear.


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