Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Journal of Dental Hygiene








Purpose: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder affecting an individual's ability to communicate, interact, behave, and learn. The purpose of this study was to determine knowledge, attitudes, and confidence of dental hygiene students in providing care to children with ASD as a mechanism for evaluating dental hygiene curricula for patients with special needs.

Methods: A simulated-virtual training (SVT) intervention was developed as an interactive approach for educating dental hygiene students on providing care to a child patient with ASD. The SVT intervention consisted of a scenario in which the clinician "interacted" with a child with ASD who was having difficulty in the dental environment. Pre- and post-test surveys measured students' knowledge, attitudes, and perceived confidence related to providing dental hygiene services to children with ASD prior to and following the intervention. The Wilcoxon Signed Rank was used to determine statistical significance at the p=.05 level.

Results: Thirty-three second year dental hygiene students completed the pre- and post-test surveys for a response rate of 97%. Statistically significant differences were observed for self-reported confidence to provide care to patients with ASD upon graduation, assessment of the unique needs of children with ASD, and an understanding of the dental needs for children with ASD (p<0.05). Participants' confidence with performing dental hygiene services on children with ASD greatly increased, with statistically significant difference found for almost all services (i.e., oral exam, oral hygiene instruction, oral photos, radiographs, scaling, fluoride treatment; p<0.05) except selective polishing. Most (90%) agreed that there is a need for additional/elective resources to help increase comfort in providing care to children with ASD.

Conclusion: Results indicate the SVT intervention increased students' knowledge, attitudes, self-perceived confidence, and comfort. Dental and dental hygiene curricula could include technologies and intervention methods to advance access to dental care by children with ASD.


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Original Publication Citation

Cenzon, K. F., Bruhn, A. M., Claiborne, D. M., & Bobzien, J. L. (2022). Use of a simulated-virtual training module to improve dental hygiene students' self-reported knowledge, attitudes, and confidence in providing care to children with autism spectrum disorder: A pilot study. Journal of Dental Hygiene, 96(5), 42-51.


0000-0001-6324-9856 (Claiborne), 0000-0002-5124-1862 (Bobzien)