Bulletin of Dental Education

Dental Hygiene Students Expand Education and Address Community Health Needs

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In a year when clinical education opportunities were limited across the nation, Oregon Institute of Technology’s (Oregon Tech) dental hygiene students shifted their focus to expanding their community outreach in Klamath Falls, OR, and growing their cross-training knowledge in Salem.  

Klamath Falls
In Fall 2020, students of Oregon Tech’s Community Health courses—which all students take for four terms—went to work serving the Klamath County community while also gaining practical experience. The students evaluated the barriers they would encounter due to the pandemic and began making plans for how they could continue to make a positive impact on community populations. 

To reach elementary age students, the dental hygiene students researched which online platforms were being used by each school and used those same platforms to create interactive, age-appropriate education that was either delivered live or recorded and sent for a future use. The students also worked with parents to offer free dental care to the elementary students using new COVID-19 safety standards. The dental hygiene clinic implemented preventive care for elementary school children, including silver diamine fluoride (SDF) and dental exams by an Oregon Tech dentist.

To reach adult populations in need, students worked with staff at a local residential drug and alcohol treatment center to provide extensive education to the residents regarding nutrition, systemic factors and dental self-care. They also provided screenings and SDF to residents and invited all into the clinic to receive free preventive care.

The students obtained funding for these projects by writing grant proposals and soliciting the community for funds, which amounted to nearly $15,000 for care. Funding resources included the Oregon Tech Resource Budget Grant as well as the Klamath Basin Sunrise Rotary, which is a long-term community partner of Oregon Tech Dental Hygiene.

Cheyenne Eglian, a senior student in dental hygiene, says, “Due to COVID-19, we had to provide dental education sessions via Zoom rather than in person. We also invited young students to our clinic to provide free dental treatment rather than doing it at their schools, which causes some transportation issues. We are grateful that we were able to treat some local kids who otherwise might not have received any care.”

At Oregon Tech’s Dental Hygiene Program in Salem, students remained determined while dealing with nearby forest fires, ice storms and COVID-19. They took the opportunity to team up with Chemeketa Community College’s Dental Assisting Program to learn more about each other’s impact on dentistry. This is the third year the two programs have collaborated, and they have found that the partnership is a win-win.

“It is such a benefit for our dental hygiene students to work with a dental assisting student who knows four-handed dentistry.... In addition, it is so important for dental assistants and dental hygienists to work together because that is what happens in the real world. To see them teach each other is really exciting,” says Abigail Rollins, D.M.D., Oregon Tech’s Restorative Instructor.

Jill Lomax, M.Ed., the Program Chair for Dental Assisting at Chemeketa Community College, says she couldn’t agree more with Dr. Rollins. “The partnership is so beneficial for both groups of students,” Prof. Lomax says. “It is a great steppingstone for our dental assisting students before they start their practicum in a dental office this spring.”

Cross-training helps students from both areas of study be exposed to teamwork they will find in their future workplaces, better preparing them for their careers.

Courtesy of Ashley Van Essen, Public Information Representative at Oregon Institute of Technology

Published on June 9, 2021

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