Dental Hygiene Students Take 1st Place in State Competition

by Kayleigh Digiacomo, Liberal Studies

As part of Montgomery County Community College’s Theory and Practice of Dental Hygiene III course, second-year Dental Hygiene (DH) students went to Lancaster to participate in the Pennsylvania Dental Hygienists’ Association (PDHA) table clinic competition on Nov. 14. After four months of research, writing, and preparing, Rebecca McKendrick, Malinda Henderson, Ashley Valco, and Kimberly Frederick’s hard work paid off; paired in groups of two, both teams brought home first place prizes for their projects.

Judged on the prevalence of the topic (among other criteria), Henderson and McKendrick decided to explore “The Oral Manifestations Post-Gastric Bypass Surgery.” McKendrick explained that the medical world is increasingly witnessing patients in need of gastric bypass surgery, which could have oral repercussions. She explained that Dental Hygienists “need to know how to comprehensively treat these patients.”

Valco and Frederick researched the effects of hookah smoking on dental hygiene. Valco relays that “the negative effects can be worse than cigarette smoking, and this information needs to be shared.”

Jenny Sheaffer, the College’s DH program director, said that the PDHA table clinic competition is a great supplement to the students’ education in that it gives the students “an area of expertise” that will “enhance their confidence in making oral presentations to fellow colleagues in their profession.”

Both McKendrick and Valco agree that the PDHA competition was an extremely informative and rewarding project. “Dental Hygiene isn’t just about cleaning teeth… it is a lifetime of research and teaching, which is exactly what the table clinic was all about,” said Valco.

The four students have been invited to compete at the national level at the American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA) conference in Phoenix, Ariz. this summer.

As McKendrick and Valco wrap up their last year in the College’s DH program, they reflect on their experiences. McKendrick, who hopes to some day teach dental hygiene, chose the College’s DH program because of its reputation as being the “best and most competitive dental hygiene school in the area.” She wasn’t disappointed,

“The dental hygiene program is rigorous academically and also clinically… I feel we are as prepared as we can be when graduating from this program,” she said.

McKendrick notes that the College only accepts 21 students into its DH program per year, so the program is full of “students who are constantly striving to excel.”

“This is part of what makes this program so successful…the other part is the faculty. We are fortunate to have the most incredible, knowledgeable, and caring faculty,” she said.

The College’s DH program is very community centered; MCCC and PDHA co-sponsor Sealant Saturday in the clinic on campus, the students volunteer at CVIM (Community Volunteers in Medicine in West Chester), and they give presentations within the community on the “importance of dental health and its affects on overall health.”

Valco goes on to say that the College’s DH community projects have greatly prepared her for her future endeavors. This summer, she is going to the Dominican Republic for a Dental Missions Trip and is contemplating pursuing a bachelor’s degree in public health.

Rebecca McKendrick, Malinda Henderson, Ashley Valco, and Kimberly Frederick. Photo by Matt Carlin

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