Poor dental health is a growing problem in the United States according to the American Dental Association. Dental Hygiene students are doing what they can to promote better dental care, and are also providing a great service for the community.

“Our students give 100 percent of themselves to this program,” Carrie Hobbs, director of the Dental Hygiene program, said.

Despite the hard work, dedication, discipline and determination it takes to get into the program, they do not see a lack in applicants. On average there are “85 to 160 students who apply every spring, with only 25 accepted,” Hobbs said.

The Dental Hygienist program holds their students to “very high standards,” Andrea Morgan, a first year student in the program, said.

Both Amy Bing and Katie Murdock, who are first-year students in the program, say it’s their whole life, and they can’t have a job or see anyone.

The program teaches the students how to be “Licensed Dental Hygienist, how do to everything a Dental Hygienist does and also the theoretical area of it,” Hobbs said.

The entire program is two years long, with a break for summer. First-year students are normally at school for about 10 hours a week, participating in lecture and lab. The second-year students are there for 14 or more hours a week, mostly practicing clinical procedures.

“My favorite part of the program so far is X-rays,” Morgan said.

All three girls agreed that the hardest part is “the book work and finding time.”

For most students “the first semester and the third semester are the most difficult. The first because it is overwhelming and the third (semester) because there is a lot of stress,” Hobbs said.

Despite the standards, students are held to in the program and the stress level of it, they have “very few students who get in and then decide to quit,” Hobbs said. “They go though so much stress and waiting to get in, most stick it out.”

“I’m most looking forward to graduation… making the big bucks and picking my own schedule,” Murdock said. Most dental hygienists made approximately $30 an hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statists.

All of the student’s patients in clinical are volunteers who come to campus and let the students perform different procedures on them such as cleanings, oral examinations, X-rays and pit and fissure sealants.

“The hardest part for many students is finding the right patients needed to complete clinical,” Hobbs said.

All students have to work on different types of patients with different difficulty levels.

“The difficult patients are always the hardest to find,” Hobbs said.

But, by offering an inexpensive clinic to people in the Tyler area, they are offering many people dental care that they would otherwise not be able to receive.

To set up an appointment, call the dental hygiene office at (903) 510-2342. A student will then contact a possible patient and give them an appointment time. The cost of the dental clinic is a one-time fee of $10. Patients are seen Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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