Honors Program

University Honors

Date of Award


Thesis Professor(s)

Deborah Dotson

Thesis Professor Department

Allied Health Sciences

Thesis Reader(s)

Randy Byington, Tabitha Fair



This study assessed ETSU dental hygiene students’ perceptions and attitudes toward their careers after graduation in relation to underserved populations’ lack of access to dental care and nontraditional roles for dental hygienists.


A voluntary simple survey was used to assess the following: dental hygiene students’ exposure to and knowledge about underserved populations and nontraditional roles for dental hygienists, students’ favor or opposition toward these nontraditional roles, students’ interest in nontraditional roles, and students’ perceived preparedness to work outside of a traditional dental office in nontraditional roles to provide care for underserved populations. The survey data was aggregated and analyzed within the general context of the ETSU Dental Hygiene Program, and differences in responses based upon student classification were investigated using an independent samples t test.


Between classes, a significant difference was seen in the responses for seven questions, all of which addressed either students’ knowledge about underserved populations and corresponding solutions to the lack of access to care or students’ perceived preparedness for nontraditional roles after graduation. The majority of the dental hygiene students responded as being in favor or completely in favor of expanded or nontraditional roles for dental hygienists and as being interested or highly interested in functioning in such roles. However, 88.89% of participants reported that they were either likely or highly likely to choose private practice as their primary place of employment.


The senior dental hygiene students both possess higher levels of knowledge about underserved populations and nontraditional roles for dental hygienists and feel more prepared to function in nontraditional roles after graduation than do the junior dental hygiene students. The program could consider focus areas, such as the reason for students’ high interest in nontraditional roles and simultaneous high likelihood to work primarily in private practice and ways to address this discrepancy.


East Tennessee State University

Document Type

Honors Thesis - Open Access

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.


Copyright by the authors.