Bulletin of Dental Education

Service-learning Opportunities Give Students a Well-rounded Education

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Johnson County Community College (JCCC) offers the only accredited dental hygiene program in Johnson County, KS. The program’s students receive a quality education and graduate with the experience and skills needed to work in the oral health field. In fact, the program boasts a 96.4% first-time pass rate on the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination (NBDHE) and clinical licensure exams.

As part of JCCC’s commitment to its students and to the greater community, the dental hygiene program provides hands-on experience through local volunteer and service-learning opportunities. One way JCCC accomplishes this is through the Oral Health on Wheels (OHOW) unit. This mobile dental clinic gives students the chance to provide comprehensive oral health care services to people with disabilities, and culturally diverse and underserved populations in the community.

Dental hygiene students at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, KS, receive hands-on training in the Oral Health on Wheels mobile clinic.

An innovative combination of dental hygiene education and public health, the community-based mobile clinic began operation in 2008 following a successful capital fundraising campaign to establish the program, and the college’s commitment to support ongoing operating expenses.  

In 2020, the college purchased a brand-new unit featuring state-of-the-art equipment and technology. This 43-foot, custom-designed vehicle includes many features of a standard dental office, such as two complete dental stations, a sterilization area, patient intake, a waiting room and a wheelchair lift to assist patients in accessing care.

Second-year dental hygiene students spend a three-week rotation in the OHOW unit as part of their clinical instruction. A full-time dental hygiene faculty member monitors and supervises operations of the OHOW. Additionally, community dentists can enhance their interprofessional education through periodic employment opportunities in the unit. 

JCCC_Photo 2_W Patient in Mobile Unit

JCCC works with several community partners to provide free dental health services, including the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment and Johnson County Developmental Supports, an agency that assists residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Additionally, the college works with the Center of Grace, a nonprofit community organization, to provide services to their network of clients.

“The experiences dental hygiene students gain while working in the OHOW helps broaden their mind to the possibility of working in an alternative oral healthcare setting in the future,” says Carrie Hanson, Ed.D., Director of the JCCC Dental Hygiene Program. “They receive one-on-one personalized instruction from the OHOW coordinator and gain confidence in working with a special group of underserved community members. We’re glad to be able to equip our students with the skills they need to succeed.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, JCCC transitioned the OHOW unit into additional classroom space for dental hygiene students to treat patients in an extension of our on-campus clinic. Students used this space to complete any unfinished or postponed clinical requirements in order to earn their degrees.

Now, the OHOW unit is back in operation and assisting people in need. Through services like these, JCCC’s dental hygiene students receive not only the hands-on experience needed to excel in their careers, but also the fulfillment of knowing they’re making a difference in the community.

Courtesy of Johnson County Community College.

Published May 11, 2022

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