Dental school helps Oregon’s minorities

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The American Dental Education Association recently recognized Pacific’s Dental Health School for their commitment to the underserved population. With their 16-chair clinic, the Dental Health School caters mainly to low income and Hispanic families, some who have never had dental care in their lives.

“We include a lot of Spanish in the curriculum,” said Program Director Lisa Rowley.

Since most of the patients students work with speak Spanish, Rowley said it’s important for them to be able to communicate with them directly.

The Dental Hygiene bachelor’s degree consists of a two-year prerequisite program at the Forest Grove campus and then two years at the Hillsboro campus working in the field. Students do rotations in 15 different off-campus locations working in professional settings; they also do work in nursing homes and prisons. Senior students do an extensive senior capstone project before graduation involving them choosing a public health issue and creating a community health project for the issue. Rowley said the program may seem intense but they do it to prepare students for unsupervised practice.

“This is really where we see dental health going,” said Rowley.

In most states, dental hygienists have to be in a supervised practice, but in Oregon they don’t. This is what the program is preparing the students for. Being able to work without the supervision of a dentist allows the hygienist to cater to the underserved patients who cannot, for whatever reason, access a dentist. After students graduate from this program they are able to take the test to get a limited access permit so that they can practice limited services for patients in a number of settings.

The Dental Health School accepts two classes of 32 students every year to the program located in Hillsboro.

“We’re very enthusiastic about bringing in arts and sciences students,” said Rowley. She stressed that if students are interested, to contact the dental health program.

The program will continue to focus on catering to the underserved this year and hopes to help students achieve the independence of a dental health career in Oregon.


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