Smiles for miles

Ferris Dental Hygiene Clinic helps keep the community smiling

The Dental Hygiene Clinic, part of Ferris’ dental hygiene program, offers low cost dental services for communities surrounding Big Rapids.

Services at the clinic include teeth cleaning, uoride treatments, x-rays and sealants, and are performed by Ferris students under supervision. The program, which is three years long, has been at Ferris since 1967.

“Most people don’t just look inside their mouth and stare at it for a long time, so it’s really important that we show them what we see as a dental hygienist,” Ferris dental hygiene senior Jocelyn Gomez said. “A lot of people don’t understand that the mouth is the window to the rest of your body.”

According to the program’s website, the first year consists of prerequisite courses, and students are considered to be pre-professional. During the last two years of the program, or the professional sequence, students work in the Dental Hygiene Clinic.

“It’s a fully functioning patient treatment clinic. We see patients from surrounding communities.” Ferris dental hygiene professor and program coordinator Kimberly Beistle said. “It’s hands-on patient treatment, so you’re modeling in our clinic what they will see in private practice. Even though we give them a little bit longer time to treat the patient, it’s getting them ready for real world application.”

Beistle said one sealant is $10 in the clinic, compared to private practice, where it’s $60-70 a sealant. The money made at the clinic goes to the general operating fund for Ferris.

“It’s affordable. A lot of people don’t have dental insurance and here it’s only $30 for a cleaning,” Ferris dental hygiene senior Kelsey LaBonte said. “In an office, you’re going to pay a lot more for that.”

Gomez said going into the program, she didn’t know dental hygienists could do more than just clean teeth. She was surprised to learn that they could provide nutritional counseling and tobacco cessation counseling.

“We check for oral cancer for people who are smoking or chew. We check for diseases related to oral cavities. We do nutritional counseling for people who you can see that are more on the sugary side of eating habits or drinking sodas or coffees, we help with that,” Gomez said.

The Ferris program currently consists of 39 first-year students and 42 second-year students. Gomez claims the professors in the program are very helpful and willing to answer student questions, but the program can still be difficult at times.

“You have to be willing to put your best foot forward and really dedicate yourself to the program,” Gomez said. “You’re not going to be perfect the first time around; it is something that you have to work hard towards. Not everyone is perfect the first time that they scale their first tooth.”