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Pupils polish dental skills in YSU’s hygiene program

YSU hygiene program offers services to the community

YOUNGSTOWN — After graduating from Boardman High School in 2020, Julia Yauger had a general idea that she wanted a career in the medical field, though it wasn’t long before she sank her teeth into something specific.

“My mom found the clinic and then I applied and took the prerequisites and was accepted into the program,” the Youngstown State University senior said.

Yauger was referring to her foray into YSU’s dental hygiene program, with a primary goal of being a certified dental hygienist.

Yauger was among a handful of students in the program who spoke Monday in the university’s two dental clinics about their learning and practicum experiences — and the challenging work they are enduring to become fully trained, marketable and qualified in their career choices.

Yauger also intends to be board certified as an expanded-functions dental assistant, which would allow her mainly to provide fillings for patients, under a dentist’s supervision. In Ohio, EFDAs also can place and finish metallic and nonmetallic restorations to allow the dentist more time to perform and complete other procedures, as well as attend to hygiene patients in a more timely manner, according to the Ohio State Dental Board.

YSU’s clinic, which debuted in 1976, offers a variety of free services for students and the public: X-rays, radiography, scaling, fluoride treatments, polishing, screenings for oral cancer, deep gum cleanings, anesthesia, patient charting and risk assessments, Bryn Hartman, the program’s interim administrator, noted.

Beginning in 2015, YSU’s dental clinic offered a four-year bachelor’s degree program, making it the second such clinic in the state to do so, along with The Ohio State University, Hartman said.

A key provision of the program, which admits 24 students per year, requires juniors to treat at least seven patients each fall semester and a minimum of nine every spring semester. Seniors are tasked with treating at least 12 and 15 patients in the same time period, she explained.

All of the students’ charting and other work is done under the supervision of instructors and area dentists who visit the clinic on a rotational basis, Hartman added.

“We have a lot of loyal patients who come back semester after semester, year after year,” she continued.

To that end, one woman has visited the clinic regularly since about the mid-1990s, said Isabella Elisco, a YSU senior who plans to be a dental hygienist.

Elisco also pointed out that the program uses two dental clinics, the newest of which opened about 11 years ago.

“My sister helped me find this program,” Maryquinn Cook, a YSU senior and 2019 Beaver Local High School graduate, said.

Initially, Cook, of Lisbon, attended Kent State University at Salem, but decided to transfer to YSU for the program, which “exceeded my expectations,” she recalled.

Like Yauger, Cook, who has seen 17 patients this semester, knew she wanted a career in the health care field. The work is challenging, but it is “difficult for a reason,” Cook observed.

For her part, Yauger has worked on 13 patients this semester, including several family members, cousins and other relatives. In addition, students are required to treat a certain number of children, teens, adults and geriatric patients, she noted.

In addition, the clinic experience is highly beneficial for students studying dentistry because they are supervised during each step and evaluated, as per protocol, which can give them another tool to master numerous essential skills. Being in the program also gives them opportunities to foster positive student-patient relationships, Hartman noted.

“I think YSU produces the best hygienists,” she said.

Hartman called the process to get into the program “a competitive admission process,” and added that students in their senior year also are required to prepare and present research projects related to the field.

Beginning in the spring 2024 semester, the clinic will be open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday. To schedule an appointment, call the dental hygiene office at 330-941-3342 Monday through Friday.

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