While walking around Northampton Community College, you may have noticed a flyer for dental cleaning. These flyers piqued curiosity and this curiosity led to inside one of Northampton’s many degree programs-the Dental Hygienist program.
The Dental Hygienist program at NCC, according to their program site, is a competency-based program with progression in “All laboratory and clinical courses based on a pass/fail criteria.
Lauren DeSantis, a second year student of the Dental Hygiene program, sat down for an informal interview.
The program is an accredited program and graduation grants an Associates of Applied Science degree with which graduates can use to immediately jump into the workforce-as many graduates do, according to DeSantis. However, before heading into the workforce, let’s take a look at the program from acceptance to graduation.
To start, students need to be accepted into the program, which can prove to be a challenge. DeSantis states that the program “Gets over 300 applicants” but only “Accept 30 students.”
Once accepted into the program, the students have a rigorous academic schedule ahead of them with the first semester consisting of “Classes and pre-clinic.” Pre-clinic is when students “Practice on each other and learn the instruments,” states DeSantis.
Classes in the first semester consist of regular academic classes such as English and Math as per the Dental Hygiene program map. In the spring semester, students “Start seeing patients. Mostly friends and family or whoever you get to come in,” DeSantis said.
In the second year, students begin “Seeing actual community patients,” DeSantis continues. And during this second year, students have a criteria they must meet in order to graduate; which is where the flyers come in handy.
Students in the program must examine teeth of many different clients in hopes of finding ones that can help them check off certain experience requirements for graduation; students must also find their own patients in order to get those teeth checked, according to DeSantis.
The Dental Hygiene program site states that after meeting the different clinical experience requirements, students must complete the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination and the clinical board examination as part of state licensing requirements.
After this demanding academic program, graduates can now enter the workforce and look forward to asking for salaries that “start at $30 an hour,” DeSantis said. And she has every right to be excited, the US Department of Labor’s places the median salary for Pennsylvanian Dental Hygienists at $31.02/hr. Wondering about the success of such a rigorous program? Well, the success of the program is exhibited in the “100% pass rate” which “they [NCC] brag about a bit,” DeSantis said.
To help these ambitious students gain experience, visit the dental clinic for a cleaning. The clinic is located at the NCC Fowler Center in Bethlehem-by the Sands Casino- and runs on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. DeSantis is in from 1 to 4:30pm those days offering free cleaning for NCC students with a $25 charge for all others. Because this is a learning experience for the students, the dental cleaning is a 3 hour process with checks by a professor and a dentist. The cleaning can be done in one session-a couple hours of teeth health for you and your family- or broken up into miniature sessions. Lauren DeSantis can be contacted at 908-914-8762. Dr. Seuss once said, “Teeth are always in style”.