Paper on Dental Hygiene

Dental Hygiene

To many people the profession of a dental hygienist seems like a disgusting job. Sure, no one wants to have their hands and face six inches from a strangers mouth picking out food and plaque, but somebody has got to do it right? I cannot even begin to count how many scrunched faces I get or how many comments I get on how gross of a profession it is. But for me, I always enjoyed going to the dentist. I was about six years old and even though most kids my age probably weren’t as excited to go to that scary place, I loved going.

It never occurred to me that I would grow up wanting to become a dental hygienist until my senior year. I still was undecided on what I wanted to go to college for but after attending a college fair at Alltel, a UAMS booklet landed in my hands and I was glued to it all night. I knew I wanted to do something in the medical field, but did not know exactly what. After having a terrible encounter with my dog, Zef, including blood and intestines hanging out, I knew for sure that I did not want to be a nurse or work in a the ER, that is definitely not for me. After looking at all the programs, the dental program was the one. Of course I had my doubts about the job, seeing how I jumped to my decisions about the profession. So when it was time to see my advisor for the first time I told her my major was dental hygiene and that I wanted to go ahead and take the prerequisite courses. If I did not use them for dental hygiene, I could always use them for some other major. After doing more and more research and actually talking with a dental hygienist, the profession is sounding better and better.

The first dental school was located in Bridgeport Connecticut, where Dr. Alfred Civilion Fones came up with the term “dental hygiene”. Dr. Fones became aware of the importance of oral disease and prevention after five years of being a dentist. Dr. Fones assistant, who was also his cousin , learned how to clean teeth and they opened up the dental school using funds and donations. After about two years, many schoolteachers and nurses graduated and were ready to put on their gloves and masks and get under that bright light. That is where it all started.

There are about two hundred dental hygiene schools world wide, with one here in Little Rock. The dental program at Uams offers either a Bachelor of Science degree, with forty-six prerequisite hours and sixty-nine professional hours, or an Associate of Science degree, with forty-four prerequisite hours and sixty -seven professional hours. That totals four years of schooling, which is half the amount of education required for other medical fields.

Dental hygiene provides many opportunities other then just being in a dentist office all day. Take for instance the Ronald McDonald dental van. These vans travel all over providing oral health care to children ranging from age three to eighteen. In fact, just last week I saw the long bus with the big smiling clown on the side parked at the Children’s Hospital. The dental hygienists that travel in these vans are trained to work with special needs kids. In fact, the Ronald McDonald House Charities donated about $25,000 to a dental school in New Jersey to expand their Special Care Treatment center.

Not only does the Ronald McDonald House see that dental treatment for special needs kids is important but the Children’s Hospital has a dentist just for the children hospitalized there. Dr. Jim Koonce is the chief of pediatric dentistry at the Arkansas Children’s Hospital. With most of the patients that Dr. Koonce sees are at high risk, the dental hygienists that work with Koonce , along with himself, are very careful with the attention that they give these children. Arkansas Children’s Hospital is one of the very few hospitals that offer the special these patients special dental rooms.

Dental hygienists can also work in regular hospitals, schools, correctional institutions and even nursing homes. (UAMS) Dental hygienists also do much more then just scrap teeth all day. In Arkansas hygienists may administer anesthesia, along with apply fluorides and sealants, screen for oral cancer, process dental X-rays, and the most important is to teach patients proper care to protect their gums and teeth.

When talking with Kari Flannery, a dental hygienist who graduated in 1997 from West Liberty State College in Wheeling, West Virginia, she had many pros about the profession and one con. “Jobs always seem to be available. I've always been able to find work very quickly”, she said. This is a very nice thing to hear in this economy. In just about any medical field you will find this, just like the need for more nurses. Another great part of this profession is meeting new types of people, “It's a great opportunity to meet new people (co-workers and patients). “I love the relationship that I've had with my patients,” Ms. Flannery said. When asked what thecons of the profession was, she replied, “The only “bad” thing about the profession is the wear and tear on your arms, neck, and back.” With flexible hours, either working two days a week or five, part time or full time, weekends off, along with great pay, starting out at $ 28.05 the profession of a dental hygienist does not sound bad at all.

Works Cited

“Department of Dental Hygiene.” The Profession. 9 April 2009. http://www.uams.edu/chrp/dentalhygiene/profession.asp

Dishongh, Kimberly, “James Daniel Koonce” Arkansas Democrat Gazette 15 March 2009

Flannery, Karry. "Re: Dental Questions. Personal Interview “ 13 March 2009