Ninety-five Ferris State University Dental Hygiene students are learning in-demand that the industry is actively seeking, according to a report from the oral healthcare website dentistryiq.com.
Samantha Mishler, an assistant professor of Dental Hygiene, said cohorts in their Associate of Applied Sciences degree number 50 students a year for a program that emphasizes hands-on learning.
“Our Dental hygiene students begin treating patients during the spring semester of their first year in the program,” Mishler said. “We work to ensure that they see patients of all backgrounds, varying levels of health status, of all age levels, and of different complexities during their time in the program to ensure they are ready for any patient they will encounter after graduation.”
The Dental Hygiene clinical lab in the Victor F. Spathelf Building is where students gain experience while benefiting community members who visit as patients.
“Students provide free or reduced cost services in our clinics to veterans and several at-risk populations,” Mishler said. “Learning, community dentistry opportunities in several offsite locations have been offered over the years, which include Hope Network, the Mecosta-Osceola Intermediate School District, Mission Point, and some local schools and daycares.”
Taylor DeWildt, of Coopersville, is working toward an associate degree in Dental Hygiene. She is eyeing a double major in Allied Health Sciences with a projected graduation date of May 2025.
“I began my studies at Ferris in Architecture. In seeking an alternative, I went back to my interest in oral health care,” DeWildt said. “Pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Allied Health Sciences allowed me to catch the prerequisite courses for Dental Hygiene and continue as a full-time student.”
DeWildt is excited about her advance into clinical learning as a first-year student.
“I have always been meticulous and detail-oriented,” she said. “I have been so ready and excited. You have spent time learning about the tools of dental hygiene, and when you begin, that allows you to be well-versed. We have learned so much in these last eight weeks.”
Mishler said those who complete the Dental Hygiene associate degree are due to enter the industry with salaries averaging $70,000. She noted, however, that students can continue their learning and expand their range of opportunities.
“Our department has developed a degree completion program to obtain a Bachelor of Science degree in Dental Hygiene that can be utilized to expand into other areas of the field, outside of clinical practice,” Mishler said. “The career options for these graduates include dental sales, speaking, advocacy, as well as dental education.”
A dentistryiq.com report said factors like an aging population’s need for oral health services and a labor market in flux after the COVID-19 pandemic call for more dental hygienists to support industry demand. DeWildt said her current plan is to work in Michigan after earning her degree.
“I hope to go back near my hometown, there is a care group there with multiple offices that I am familiar with and enjoy,” DeWildt said. “I do plan to keep my options open.”