Journal of Dental Hygiene
Purpose: The state of Virginia faces a reported dental health professional shortage affecting approximately half of its residents.The purpose of this study was to assess the opinions and attitudes of dental hygienists in Virginia toward a mid-level dental provider model, dental therapists (DTs), and to determine whether current education level and years of practice affected opinions regarding the education requirements for DTs.
Methods: A 22-item questionnaire was distributed online to a convenience sample of Virginia dental hygienists (n=910). Items assessed attitudes of participants toward the DT using a seven-point Likert-type scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree). Participants were asked to provide demographic information and to respond to open-ended questions regarding potential advantages and/or disadvantages to DTs. Independent samples t-tests and chi-square analyses were used to analyze the data.
Results: A response rate of 22% was obtained (n=200). Most respondents agreed a DT was needed in Virginia (M=5.78, p<0.001) and supported the concept that dental therapy could be a solution to the problem of access to care issues in Virginia (M=5.97, p<0.001). While most respondents agreed it was important for Virginia to adopt legislation for a dental therapy model (M=5.89, p<0.001), most disagreed that DTs’ practice should be restricted to acknowledged underserved areas in the state (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).
Conclusion: 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 regarding this mid-level oral health care provider.
Original Publication Citation
Burns, H. M., Tolle, S. L., Ludwig, E. A., & Suedbeck, J. R. (2022). Attitudes of Virginia dental hygienists toward dental therapists. Journal of Dental Hygiene, 96(1), 55-63. https://jdh.adha.org/content/96/1/55
Burns, Helene M.; Tolle, Susan L.; Ludwig, Emily A.; and Suedbeck, Jessica R., "Attitudes of Virginia Dental Hygienists Towards Dental Therapists" (2022). Dental Hygiene Faculty Publications. 59.