2019 Funded Project

CFDHRE Peer Reviewed Grant

Laura Dempster
Associate Professor, Faculty of Dentistry

Project Title:

Dental assistants’ and dental hygienists’ experiences of dental office noise exposure: Exploring relationships with coping, autonomy and well-being

Principal Applicant

Laura Dempster DipDH, BScD(DH), MSc, PhD
Title: Associate Professor, Faculty of Dentistry
Organization: University of Toronto


Heather Hanwell, PhD, MSc, MPH(c)
Title: Research Assistant
Organization: University of Toronto




Problem Statement
Gaps exist in our understanding of the impact of noise exposure on dental assistants (DA) and dental hygienists (DH) in dental practice. In addition, interest lies in the impact of dental workplace noise on factors over and above hearing loss and tinnitus, including those related to well-being. Environmental noise is related to mental health and well-being; thus, dental office noise is of concern not only in terms of hearing but also of well-being. Need exists for a comprehensive study of DAs and DHs, that explores their experience in the dental workplace, the noise they experience, and how this may relate to their well-being.

To explore how DAs and DHs report their experiences of noise in the dental office and investigate the relationship between dental workplace noise and well-being.

We will use a qualitative collective case study of 9 DA & DH pairs enrolled from general dental practices in our previously-funded quantitative study. Data will include questionnaires on coping with stress, personal workplace noise exposure diaries, and semi-structured interviews. A concurrent literature search of theoretical and empirical publications on workplace well-being will assist in theorizing and interpretation. Analyses will be based in constructivist grounded theory methodology wherein we compare interview transcripts, coping data, and noise-related data within, between, and across cases to explore DAs’ and DHs’ experiences of workplace noise and explore how this relates to coping and self-determination.

Potential Results/Impact
Noise in dental practices may affect well-being of DHs and DAs but this has not yet been studied. This study will be the first to explore work-related noise exposure in relation to the well-being of dental professionals. Understanding the relationship between noise, well-being and relevant contextual factors can aid in producing noise-related recommendations to improve the well-being of dental practice staff.