Date of Award

Spring 2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Dental Hygiene


Dental Hygiene

Committee Director

Susan L. Tolle

Committee Member

Emily Ludwig

Committee Member

Denise Claiborne


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to determine perceptions of Virginia (VA) dentists toward Mid-Level Dental Providers, specifically dental therapists (DT), and determine if American Dental Association (ADA) membership affected attitudes. Methods: After IRB approval, data was collected with an online survey sent to 1208 VA dentists. Participants responded to 11 Likert type scale questions ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree) assessing their attitudes toward DTs. Participants also responded to questions regarding the appropriate level of education and supervision of a DT, as well as five demographic questions. Two multiple linear regression models were used to determine (1) if years of practice and comfort in allowing the DT perform procedures predict tolerance toward DTs and (2) if membership in the ADA and comfort allowing the DT perform procedures predict tolerance toward DTs. Statistically significant differences for Likert type scale questions were determined using a one-sample t-test and compared to a neutral rating of 4.

Results: An overall response rate of 12% was obtained (n=145). Most participants were males (73%), members of ADA (84%), and over the age of 40 (65%). Results suggest that most participants did not perceive (M= 1.90, p<0.001) a DT was needed in Virginia, and did not support (M= 2.08, p<0.001) legislation for a dental therapist model. Most participants (M=2.01, p<0.001) were not comfortable having a dental therapist perform authorized procedures or ever employing one in their practice (M=1.82, p<0.001). Comfort having a DT perform authorized procedures (b= .63, p<0.001), but not years of practice (b= -.09, p=0.18), was significantly associated with support for a DT. Additionally, a lower tolerance towards DTs was associated with an increased likelihood membership in the ADA (b= .14, p=0.04).

Conclusions: Virginia dentists surveyed have negative attitudes toward DTs. Findings support the need for more research with a larger and more diverse sample.


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