By Bob Fowler, Roane State staff writer
The doorway into Roane State’s Dental Hygiene Clinic can be overlooked at times. It’s D-107, off the atrium and across from the library of the college’s Oak Ridge campus.
Unbeknownst to the casual passerby, it’s the entrance to a college program regarded as one of the top in the nation.
- a classroom outfitted with the most current dental teaching implements;
- six spotless operatories/treatment rooms containing dental chairs, computers for inputting patient records, and the latest treatment technology;
- two X-ray rooms with digital X-ray capability—one with panoramic X-ray equipment—and a room where X-rays are developed; and
- a receptionist’s area along with a small office.
“I love to show our program because I’m very, very proud of it,” says Melinda Gill, director of Roane State’s dental hygiene program.
Gill took over leadership of the dental hygiene program—launched in 1990—five years ago. She spearheaded sweeping updates, ranging from new dental chairs to updated equipment to replacement countertops of polished black stone.
“The college has been very supportive,” she said. “We have the latest equipment so students can keep abreast of the newest technologies.”
The dental hygiene program—five semesters of intensive study leading to an associate of applied science degree—is renowned for its rigorous curriculum.
Competition for admission is intense. More than 100 students apply for the course each year, but there are only 12 positions, Gill said. “It’s a very competitive program to get into,” she said.
The students selected are always dedicated to succeeding, she said, with Roane State dental hygiene students scoring in the top 3 percent nationwide on national dental hygiene board certification scores. And that’s among all colleges across the country.
Those who complete the program and become licensed can expect to make around $28 to $30 an hour, Gill said. Thus far, 100 percent of her graduates have gained employment, she said.
But the job market is tightening and becoming more competitive. That’s why Roane State dental hygiene students go the extra mile.
They learn the latest dental cleaning techniques and practices. They also become adept in administering local anesthesia as well as administering and monitoring nitrous oxide, better known as “laughing gas.”
In addition, students learn how to take and develop digital and traditional X-rays, make sports guards and bleaching trays, take and monitor all vital signs, run the front office, make temporary crowns, and many more skills to make them invaluable assets to the dental office.
Much like the clinic’s inconspicuous location, a longstanding program available within is often unnoticed while also providing a huge benefit to the community.
It’s the dental hygiene clinic, which provides dental cleaning, dental X-rays, dental sealants, and tooth whitening procedures for residents at modest prices during the fall and spring semesters.
The fee, for instance, for a routine dental cleaning including an exam, all necessary radiographs and fluoride treatment, is just $30.
“The community needs to know there’s this resource available,” Gill said.
Dentists and licensed dental hygienists are on staff and monitor the work dental hygiene students. Helping residents with their dental needs is part of the students’ training and education, Gill said.
Other services available include applying dental sealants to teeth to help prevent decay, and teeth whitening for patients who have had their teeth cleaned in the clinic within the past year.
During fall semester, starting in September, the dental hygiene clinic is open from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday, and from 8 a.m. until noon and 1 p.m. until 5 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday.
The spring semester schedule for the clinic is from 8 a.m. until noon and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and on Friday from 8 a.m. until noon.
The clinic is closed from May through August.
Call (865) 481-2016 to schedule an appointment.
This story and photo were submitted by Owen Driskill.