Date of Award

Spring 2021


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Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS) in Dental Hygiene


Dental Hygiene


Purpose: The purpose of the study was to examine if participation in an interactive virtual patient (VP) module increased dental hygiene students’ knowledge in caring for individuals with developmental disability (DD) and if participation in an interactive, VP module would impact dental hygiene students’ perception of difficulty in caring for individuals with DD.

Methods: The study utilized a mixed-methods study design with a convenience sample composed of eighteen (N=18) dental hygiene students. A pre-test/post-test design was utilized in two measures based on the content of the VP module. The eight-item Disability Situations Inventory (DSI) measured perceived sense of difficulty in addressing dental needs of individuals with DD. The15-item knowledge test based upon content of the VP module served as a measure of knowledge. Thematic analysis was used to analyze open-ended qualitative items.

Results: Item level analyses on the DSI items demonstrated a significant decrease in perceived level of difficulty from pre-test to post-test (p = 0.000 [1.09E-08]. Results show a significant gain in knowledge (p = 0.04). The mean pre-test item score was 0.369 (M=0.369; SD=0.21). The mean post-test score was 0.447 (M=0.447; SD=0.225). Themes emerging in qualitative findings included: importance of communication, confidence in patient interaction, insight into parent perspective, and positive impact of the VP module.

Conclusion: The VP module was shown to be an effective tool in preparing dental hygiene students in the care of persons with DD through increased knowledge and confidence.