Roundtable With Four Dental Hygiene Students

Rochester Community and Technical College offers an Associate in Applied Science degree in Dental Hygiene. These four students are currently taking part in the two-year program; two first-year students, and two as second-year. After graduation, students can go on to study more in the field, all the way up to earning a doctorate or becoming a dental therapist.

Read on to find out more about what it’s like to be in the program, why they enjoy it, and what it means to them.

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From left: Hilary Bottema, Lindsay Swartz, Eunice Russell, and Jessie Ludden. All four RCTC students are in the Dental Hygiene program.

Why did you choose this program?  

Hilary Bottema (second-year student, Adams, Minn.): A lot of people don’t understand that their oral health is really integrated with their overall health. Being able to help them with that small part – and having a patient come in, and seeing them again in six months and seeing the difference in that they’re understanding how to brush, how to floss, how many times to do those things – you can see that change. It’s a good feeling that you’re helping somebody out.

Jessie Ludden (first-year student, Cannon Falls, Minn.): Oral health wasn’t a priority growing up in our family. When I became an adult and a parent of my own kids, then it became obvious to me how important it really is. For the last 15 years or so it’s been on my mind to do it (the program). I like it because it incorporates health care, and it’s science based. I love that. It incorporates education, which, I really like that aspect of it too.

Eunice Russell (first-year student, Nassau, Bahamas): My situation is I’m not from here; I’m from the Bahamas. Our dental care is a bit different. I think the dentists back home, they kind of brush over our teeth. They miss a lot of spots. I’ve had root canals, cavities, extractions done to my mouth. I also had an accident that happened in a clinic – the dentist put a hole in my sinus where she pulled one of my molars out.

I did a lot of research on my situation, and I had pretty much a hole in my sinus for three months. The more I researched, the more I was like, ‘Hey, this is what’s wrong with me. The dentist isn’t really helping me right now.’ I got interested in the dental field and the care part so I can help people not experience what I’ve been through.

I heard about dental hygiene and got interested in it, and was like, ‘yeah, this is what I want to do.’ At least I’ll be helping somebody.

Lindsay Swartz (second-year student, Rochester, Minn.): I really wanted to be in the health care field. I wasn’t super interested in being a nurse. The dental field is a great way to be able to be in the health care field. It feels so cool when someone gets done with their appointment and they run their tongue on their teeth, and they’re like, ‘oh my gosh it feels so good… and they look so good.’ It makes you feel good knowing that you’re helping them. Not just because they think their teeth look nicer, but you know that you’re helping them with their overall health.

“I also feel like a lot of people think the dental hygiene field is a walk in the park, but it’s a lot more than just scraping junk off of people’s teeth.” – Hilary Bottema

What are some of your favorite aspects of the program?

Bottema: The faculty are amazing. They’re really helpful in class. In clinic, they’re willing to sit with you one on one and explain something that you don’t understand. In clinic, all of us students work together as a team and help each other out.

Swartz: I feel like our instructors want us to succeed. Even as far as bringing in their husbands or children for us to do work on them so that we can complete our requirements. They really help us.

Bottema: The coursework is a lot. It’s a lot of science and microbiology and all of that stuff. But then you take all of that from the classroom, and when you apply it in clinic, it all kind of comes together.

Ludden: I would agree 100 percent. The book work of it all is a lot and is intense. But then you can directly apply that to clinic, so it’s rewarding to do the hands-on stuff right away and get into it, and see what you’re going to be doing in practice and still learning all the science behind it.

What would you tell someone interested in the Dental Hygiene program?

Russell: It’s a very competitive program. There are only 16 seats to get in. Do your best, especially on biology and science. Just come over and see how the clinic is run so you know this is what you want to do.

Bottema: I also feel like a lot of people think the dental hygiene field is a walk in the park, but it’s a lot more than just scraping junk off of people’s teeth. It’s a lot more than that.

Lot of coffee.

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“In the end, it’s rewarding. We helped 24 kids that wouldn’t otherwise have had access to care, or the money for it,” says Hilary Bottema (not pictured). Here, a second-year student, Hannah Lund, cleans a child’s teeth at a Give Kids a Smile event in January.

Anything else you’d like to share about the program?

Swartz: (We have a) Dental Hygiene Clinic (a clinic open to the public located on the second floor of the Heinz Center where the students practice. It is open Monday through Thursday) takes almost all insurances. We’re looking for patients. We do X-rays, sealants, and whitening. And we’re very professional and thorough.

Ludden: There’s a doctor present. It’s a real clinic.

Bottema: We usually have different dentists come in each clinic period. Just hearing what they have to say and just different points of view is really beneficial to our education. (The students also complete rotations at Mayo Clinic, Apple Tree Dental, a nursing home, and the Federal Medical Center. Plus, they get to see oral surgeries and go to conventions to enhance their education.)

For more information on the Dental Hygiene program, check out the program page.

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