By Steve Keenan
The reach of Bridgemont Community and Technical College’s dental hygiene program far exceeds the chairs in which patients sit in a sixth-floor clinic at Davis Hall.
Staff and student participants in the dental hygiene program continue to strive to offer increased community service in the Upper Kanawha Valley and beyond, says Michelle Klenk, professor and chairperson of Bridgemont’s dental hygiene department.
In addition to providing an entirely free service to those who avail themselves of it on campus or in the community at large, students and staff in the program are also involved in various manners of community outreach, such as recent screenings involving students at Valley and Gauley Bridge elementary schools in affiliation with dentists from the region. Students and staff have also taken part in programs in other settings such as nursing homes, pre-schools and methadone clinics.
Klenk feels the community service component is important for the dental hygiene program.
“So many people need it (both the dental services offered and the outreach),” she said. Focusing on an improved dental outlook is about “valuing,” she added. “Getting your mouth healthy affects (the rest of your body).”
The current enrollment in the associate degree program is 32 students, who are supervised by three full-time faculty, two part-time faculty and a staff dentist. Students treat over 1,100 patients annually in Bridgemont’s 18-unit on-campus clinic in Montgomery. The patients receive the full range of preventive and therapeutic dental hygiene care, which includes X-rays, cleanings, sealants, impressions/models, periodontal quadrant scaling and root planing and oral screenings. Treatment is completed under direct supervision of licensed practitioners, and it does take longer to complete than in a private dental office.
Referrals for restorative dental procedures such as fillings, crowns, implants, bridges, partials, dentures or extractions are made to local dentists, Klenk said.
“We don’t do dentistry,” she said. Their focus is on “prevention instead of restoration.”
The program is accredited by the American Dental Association Commission on Dental Accreditation. Graduates are eligible to take national, regional and state board examinations for licensure.
In addition to on-campus services, students work alongside licensed practitioners in the HealthRight dental clinic in Charleston providing care to eliminate pain and infection in patients seeking care there. They also actively participate in school-based dental hygiene care through rendering treatment at Mary C. Snow West Side Elementary dental facility and working with the Kanawha Dental Health Council’s registered dental hygienists to provide dental screenings and classroom dental hygiene education in Kanawha County schools.
Community dental health programs have included programs for tobacco cessation, blood pressure clinics, drug treatment facility programs, nursing homes, day care centers, prenatal and childhood education facilities and other programs identified as dental health needs of the various communities served.
Community groups wanting to be involved in a program can call 304-734-6651.
“We would be happy to send students out,” Klenk said.
Overall, the clinic is in operation from late August to May. However, it will close in about two weeks for the Christmas holiday and re-open in mid-January.
Fall appointments are accepted on Mondays and Wednesdays, while that will expand to Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays in January.
Appointments must be made in advance. To take advantage of the free services in the Montgomery clinic, call 304-734-6651 to schedule a screening.
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