Dental hygiene faces wait list, patient gap

West makes a model of Anthonys teeth. An associate degree in the dental program takes two to three years. Students are put on waiting lists in order to apply for courses.

West makes a model of Anthony’s teeth. An associate degree in the dental program takes two to three years. Students are put on waiting lists in order to apply for courses.

More than a degree can be found at the Dr. Crockett Dental Hygiene Clinic.

Students in the dental hygiene field are learning the ropes in the dental profession, while they improve themselves and make life-long friends. Sarah West, dental hygiene major, said this is a side of campus that is passed by too many times.

“I think we have the best program in the state,” she said. “There aren’t a whole lot of dental hygiene programs in the area. We might be a smaller program, but people from all over are trying to get into it and we need to find ways to improve it further.”

An associate degree in the dental program takes two to three years. Students are put on waiting lists in order to apply for the courses. When West applied in 2004, there were 90 applicants to fill only 30 positions.

“You have to have determination,” she said. “Your first year you learn your main instrument and instrumentation, because if you don’t know that, you can’t move on in the program.”

In the first year of the program, the students practice on each other and on Dexter, a mannequin.

This teaches students positioning of the chairs, the utensils and how to X-ray.

West said the courses and the goals students must meet aren’t easy. Below 75 percent is failing, and the clinic work is graded separately from the classroom work. However, West said it gets difficult in the second year.

“The hardest part is getting patients in the clinic,” she said. “People don’t realize how long the process the program takes for patients. We are so thorough and involved with our patients; there is so much paper work. At a professional office it’s done too, but we’re learning how to do it, and people don’t want to take that time or effort into that.”

Some people who are willing to take time for students are the professors in the field. West said the instructors are why the program is so successful.

“If any of them left I just don’t know how any of it would work, because they are the glue,” West said. “I think they are very underappreciated at Missouri Southern.”

Rhonda White was awarded the Missouri Dental Hygiene Association Outstanding Educator Award, and to West there’s no secret why.

“She can sit down with you for two minutes and automatically tell you what’s wrong,” West said. “I don’t know how she does that, the way she breaks it down is such an art.”

Harvetta Way, a secretary, is another person who’s made an impression on the students. “She is a counselor and a mentor. To everyone, she is a shoulder to lean on.”

Erica Little, the vice president of the dental hygiene program, and Kim Rogers, a member of the board of trustees for the Missouri Dental Hygiene Association, have helped students more than academically.

“We’re like family members down there,” West said. “This is the first time I’ve ever been this close to a group of girls. After I graduate I’m going to handcuff myself to the railing.”

West said to any dental student, there is always something new and exciting the field. New equipment and procedures are simple updates, but to West educating people she encounters about oral health keeps her enthusiastic. Every semester there are two to three clinics students are assigned to shadow.

And the students also have the opportunity to be guest speakers at elementary schools.

“It’s not just about the program, there’s other things you get to do out in the community and it gets you geared up to go on and be involved in a practice,” West said. “People who want to be involved in the program need to know you have to have dedication and creativity to pursue the program.”

For more information on the dental clinic, please go to the Southern homepage, and click on the careers link for information on the program.