Bulletin of Dental Education

University of Arkansas Fort Smith Dental Hygiene Program Highlights Interprofessional and Service-learning Events

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The University of Arkansas Fort Smith (UAFS) Department of Dental Hygiene 2018-19 academic year included a variety of community service-learning activities. Students and faculty worked together to extend learning experiences outside of the classroom and into the community. 

UAFS 1Both first- and second-year students and faculty participated in a total of five After School Smilz Clinics funded by Blue Cross Blue Shield Blue and the YOU Foundation. These after school clinics provided preventive dental services to over 150 children from low-income families in the Fort Smith, AR, area. One clinic featured a zoo theme, as part of a campus-wide fall holiday contest, in which faculty and students dressed in animal costumes and the children were provided animal masks.

A Free Extraction Day (FED) community service event was held in February funded by a Delta Dental Foundation mini grant. The FED was a collaborative and interprofessional community project combining volunteer dentists, dental hygienists, dental assistants, students and faculty from the College of Health Science (Dental Hygiene, Radiology, Surgical Technology and Health Care Administration), Vista College Dental Assisting, the Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine and predental students from UAFS and the University of Central Arkansas. Approximately 139 volunteers worked together in this service-learning experience. A total of 153 patients were seen and 226 diseased teeth removed. 

A senior dental hygiene student reflected on the learning experience provided by this event.
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“I learned so many new things while giving local anesthesia, from many different points of view,” the student says. “It was such a great feeling having other professionals there and the interprofessional collaborations that happened to make extraction day possible. Visiting with all of the dentists, faculty, medical students and other volunteers was amazing. We strive as dental professionals for the oral and systemic health connection to be made across all health professions and attending extraction day was proof it is possible. I’m very grateful for the opportunity provided for me as a hygiene student to participate in such a rewarding event that provided treatment to such a large number of patients in need.”

Representatives from each class participated in oral cancer screenings at the Reynolds Cancer Support House in September 2018. Senior students participated in the Polk County Sealant Initiative at the Healthy Connections Clinic in Mena, AR, in February and provided services at the Fort Smith Community Dental Clinic during the spring semester. Students and faculty visited the Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine, which included a hands-on interactive tour of the human cadaver lab. 

Senior students participated in oral presentations at the UAFS Research Symposium in April. In addition, the students hosted a continuing education event, where they presented their research topics to community dentists and hygienists. 

Submitted by Virginia Hardgraves, M.S., RDH, Assistant Professor Dental Hygiene, University of Arkansas Fort Smith

Published on August 14, 2019

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