Students in the UAA Dental Hygiene program are pushing through pandemic

The dental hygiene program at UAA has managed to progress even as COVID-19 has created challenges.
Published: Feb. 26, 2021 at 9:20 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - If you are someone in need of teeth cleaning or a number of the other services offered at the University of Alaska Anchorage Dental Clinic, you may be able to get it done at a reduced rate while also helping out the students of the UAA Dental Hygiene program. It’s the only program of its kind in the entire state and in large part, it has managed to funnel its graduates to local practices within the last frontier.

“Most of our students stay within the state and I’ll tell you as an educator it’s very heartwarming to be in the community and see students that I’ve educated in the past,” says Carrie Shamburger, Director of the UAA Dental Hygiene program.

The education that students receive through the university is a combination of book learning, hands-on experience and eventually the national dental hygiene board exam. The second of those three steps was complicated this past spring when the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown all hands-on work by the students.

Since that time, and in observance of rigorous safety protocols, the students in the dental hygiene program are back to working with real-life patients though they could use a few more coming through the clinic doors.

“We are seeing a reduced number of patients since Covid and we’re needing more patients to come into the clinic,” says Jennifer Poundstone, a student in the dental hygiene program. “We’ll see all types of patients from children 3 and up all the way up to the geriatrics and I know our senior cohorts are getting ready for boards and so we’re looking for specific patients that meet the requirements with calculus and those that haven’t had a cleaning in a couple of years.”

At UAA, this is a competitive program to get into. Only 14 students are selected each year and more than 40 applicants tend to apply. According to the website site Salary Expert, dental hygienists in the state can expect to make between about $63,000 and $109,000 per year depending on experience and other factors.

If you’re someone interested in the UAA Dental Hygiene program or if you are interested in using the UAA Dental Clinic you can follow these hyperlinks for more information.

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