Dental Hygiene Students Will Clean Your Teeth For Free

Senior dental hygiene majors Nichelle Bilotto and Cynthia Zatroch are two of the many dental students conducting free teeth cleanings. New clinical labs in Cushwa Hall will soon be available to dental students and patients alike.

The Youngstown State University Dental Hygiene Program is brightening the smiles of students across campus by offering free dental cleaning to interested participants.

The program offers exams, screenings, X-rays, sealants for children, cleanings and fluoride treatments. A licensed dentist is always present for procedures and is generally joined by two dental hygienists. Instructors regularly check students’ work at several points during the procedures. Each student’s first cleaning is conducted on a fellow dental hygiene student.

Suzanne Smith, the program director and clinic coordinator of the dental hygiene program, explained that each semester, junior and senior dental hygiene students must administer a set number of cleanings as a part of their curriculum. While scheduling appointments is similar to that of a private dental office, there are some differences.

“You have to be a little more flexible. Of course our appointments take longer than in a private dental office. There’s no charge, which is great. The trade-off is you have to be a little understanding that it is a learning experience and it takes longer,” Smith said.

Even though this program has been around since 1978, it has only just recently become a bachelor’s program.

“We recently transitioned to a bachelor’s degree, and in the spring, we will graduate our first class of bachelor degree programs,” Smith said. “We are only the second school in Ohio to offer a bachelors degree, with Ohio State being the only other one.”

A necessary goal for graduating the program involves completing clinicals. Nicole Bodnar, a senior in dental hygiene, discussed some of the challenges of participating in clinicals.

“[It’s hard] when patients cancel. A lot of people don’t realize that this is our grade. They think that we are doing this just for experience, but we actually get graded on everything we do in there,” Bodnar said.

Hannah Ropp, a senior dental hygiene major, explained that the clinic is open every day during the week.

“We are flexible with our appointment schedule. Seniors have appointments Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Juniors have appointments Tuesday and Thursday, so the clinical is open every day,” Ropp said. “We are always welcoming new patients — it’s on the first floor of Cushwa. There is no charge, and you’re helping us a lot if you are reliable and come in. We really appreciate it.”

These clinicals are particularly effective for hands-on learners.

“I love actually doing it because that is how I learn — doing it. I can sort of learn by watching, but it’s not the same as doing it,” Bodnar said.

The clinical program is open to anyone needing basic dental services, regardless of their particular dental needs.

“If you think you have disgusting teeth, I promise you we have probably seen worse, and we need people that have calculus [the hard deposits on the teeth that create bone loss]. So don’t feel embarrassed about your mouth at all, there is no judgment. We actually need cases that are bad,” Ropp said. “Everyone is welcome.”

To schedule an appointment, call the dental hygiene office at 330-941-3342.

Those interested in joining the dental hygiene program can attend an open house Sept. 30 in the President’s Suite of Kilcawley Student Center.