“We’ve been working in silos in
dental, medical, physical therapy, internal
medicine and many other professions.”
McDonald says. “Now we’re trying to bring
patients to optimal health by collaborating
Enhanced patient care means explor-
ing the link between oral disease and
illnesses that impact the entire body,
McDonald says. A student on TMCC’s
dental hygiene BS track may rotate into a
hospital to educate medical team mem-
bers on how gum disease increases risk of
heart problems, diabetes and how import-
ant good oral hygiene is to the whole body.
TMCC has 14 students signed up for
the new hygiene BS. About 40 students
applied, needing a minimum 2.75 GPA,
a goal obstructed for some learners by
the difficult science courses required
for entry. Using TMCC’s admission
point system, students can qualify by
taking a Health Environmental Systems
Incorporated Exam, or HESI, as well as
separate dexterity and spatial relations
tests. Prior experience in dentistry is
another way to gain points and, hopefully, admission into the program.
Meanwhile, TMCC revised its
dental-assisting degree program so
participants can earn a certificate
stackable with an associate degree.
Credits to complete the degree and
certificate are flexible, embedding
a mandatory math class into course
work when previously students needed
an additional math course to graduate.
Other general education necessities are
similarly accommodating, enabling
students to take classes that interest
them while they work toward their
program of choice.
Just as importantly, the refurbished
dental-assisting program better meets
the needs of learners with responsibilities outside their academic careers, notes
program coordinator Julie Muhle.
“It’s a balance of standards and
what the community wants,” Muhle
says. “Our demographics changed from
non-working folks to single parents
A PROFESSION IN HIGH DEMAND
BLS median wage data has dental hygienists making $74,820 per year as of 2018,
while assistants accrue $38,660 annually.
Both positions are projected for growth
well into the next decade, owing to people
living longer and becoming educated
about the importance of keeping their
teeth, says Mc Donald of TMCC.
Graduates of the college’s hygiene
program are sought out by dental prac-
tices and clinics in Nevada. McDonald
gets almost daily emails from
practitioners in Reno, Carson City, the
Tahoe area and parts of the state with
more limited access dental care.
“We have all these outlying rural
communities that need dental care,”
McDonald says. “Our bachelor’s pro-
gram has received great support from
the college and our advisory board.”
To further help the cause, TMCC’s
close-knit dental community ensures
that program training meets industry
licensing criteria and employer needs.
“We have several faculty members
who have collaborated with the Nevada
Oral Health Program and who complete inspections for the state dental
board," McDonald says. These are great
resources within our program.
For LATI, the state’s dental-assisting
ranks are driven in part by early-career
dentists opting for group or corporate
practices over the long-standing private
practice model. New practitioners are
joining group practices in South Dakota Im