Dental hygiene and therapy students experiences of psychological wellbeing in their undergraduate education

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Background: Dental schools are recognised to be highly demanding and stressful learning environments. Studies which have examined stress and psychological wellbeing of students within the dental undergraduate environment have, for the last four decades, focused on negative measures of psychological wellbeing. In addition, these studies have been exclusively targeted at dental students; and therefore, ignored the education of other dental professionals.
Aims: The aim of this programme of studies was to explore our understanding of stress and positive psychological wellbeing of dental hygiene and therapy students from both a national and international perspective, and then to utilise this knowledge to implement a possible intervention. Participants and methods: The research involved a mixed-method approach using validated psychological tools, semi-structured interviews, and participation in an intervention workshop. Statistical analyses of quantitative data collected were handled with SPSSTM software. Thematic analyses of students’ experiences of stress and wellbeing were undertaken using Braun and Clarke’s six stages of thematic analysis. Results: Data showed that dental hygiene and therapy students reported similar sources of stress to that of dental students. However, at the same time, the participants also reported high levels of positive psychological wellbeing. The qualitative study showed that, for dental hygiene and therapy students, the significance of the meaning they attributed to their undergraduate training mitigated much of their stressful experiences. Scores from the intervention study showed that taking a positive approach to the education of stress and wellbeing within the dental hygiene and therapy curricula had a beneficial impact on the way participants understood their experience of stress. Conclusions: The results from this programme of studies has made a valuable contribution to our understanding of stress and wellbeing in dental hygiene and therapy undergraduate education. Within the limitations of these studies, stress was seen in a broader context. This research brought into question whether eliminating stress was necessary, or indeed relevant, and concluded that psychological wellbeing needs to be explored further. It highlighted the important role meaning held, and the relationship between meaning and stress. It is concluded the need to argue for psychological interventions/education to be included within the undergraduate curriculum for all dental professionals.
Date of AwardFeb 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorClare Wilson (Supervisor), Sara Holmes (Supervisor) & David Radford (Supervisor)

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