Dental hygiene program teaches students & serves community

Student Cindy Palacios doing dental procedure on Jimmy Bowen. Photo taken by Andrew West.

Participation in the dental hygiene program is one of the ways students can earn a degree in Health Sciences at Georgia Highlands College. The program also benefits the community as students learn by providing access to affordable teeth cleanings for Rome’s citizens.

“Our priority is to be a learning institution,” said Donna Miller, dental hygiene program director. “We provide care, but it’s important that the students learn also.”

The clinic started in 1990 in the offices of local dentist Webster and Stein in Rome. Students would learn about dental care by reinforcing study with practice, cleaning teeth under the watchful eyes of instructors.

Donna Miller ( center ), talks with student Dena Kimbrel ( right ) and an instructor in the dental lab. Photo taken by Andrew West.

The clinic flourished in this location, and eventually was moved to GHC’s Heritage Hall in 2003.

“We blossomed and the faculty grew, and it was nice to move over here,” Miller said.

The services provided by the clinic are all preventive, meaning patients would need to go to private practice offices for anything other than things like cleanings, X-rays and sealants.

“We don’t pull teeth, fill teeth or replace teeth. That’s the dentist’s side of it,” Miller said.

Any cleanings for patients ages 12 and under are $35. For adults, a regular cleaning will cost $55. A deep cleaning, for those patients who might be “overdue” for one, is $95.

Donna Miller, dental hygiene program director. Photo taken by Andrew West.

Miller did note that her program strives to maintain a good relationship with local dentist’s offices, and patients are limited to one visit per year.

“We’re an answer for those who may have limitations, who don’t have insurance and can’t afford to go on a regular basis,” Miller said. “Then we have people who have insurance who like to get their cleanings done here and use their insurance money for restorative work.”

Kristin Baumann, an instructor with the program, is a 2004 dental hygiene graduate. She maintains a job in private practice as well.

“As an instructor, helping students take the pieces and make it a whole has been very rewarding,” Baumann said.