Date of Award

Fall 12-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Dental Hygiene

Committee Director

Susan Lynn Tolle

Committee Member

Emily A. Ludwig

Committee Member

Jessica R. Suedbeck


Problem: The purpose of this study was to determine the opinions and attitudes of Virginia dental hygienists toward dental therapists (DTs) and to determine if current education level and years of practice affected opinions regarding education requirements for DTs. Methods: After IRB approval, a 22-item questionnaire was distributed online to a convenience sample of 910 Virginia dental hygienists. Questions assessed attitudes of participants toward the DT using a seven-point Likert-type scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree). Additionally, participants were asked to respond to demographic questions and open-ended questions about potential advantages and/or disadvantages to DTs. Independent sample t-tests and chi-square analysis was used to analyze results. Results: An overall response rate of 22% was obtained (n=200). Most respondents agreed a DT was needed in Virginia (M=5.78, P<0.001), most disagreed that DTs’ practice should be restricted to acknowledged underserved areas in Virginia (M=3.19, P<0.001). No significant association was found between years of practice and opinions toward education requirements for DTs; however, a significant association was found between current education level and opinions toward education requirements for DTs (Fisher’s Exact Test=34.17, df=9, P=.000, Cramer’s V=.28). Thirty-three percent of respondents with associate degrees supported an associate degree as the appropriate degree requirement for DTs, compared to only 3% of all other degree holders. Conclusions: Results revealed Virginia dental hygienists had overwhelmingly positive attitudes toward DTs. Research with a larger sample could provide more insight into opinions of the Virginia dental hygienist population.