‘A win-win for the community and for students’: Dixie State Dental Hygiene Clinic accepting new patients

This Oct. 2019 file photo shows Dixie State University dental hygiene students on campus, St. George, Utah, Oct. 25, 2019 | Photo courtesy of Lindsey Erickson, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Dixie State University’s Dental Hygiene Clinic is accepting new patients as the new semester approaches. Community members can have their teeth cleaned and checked at a low cost by local dental hygiene students. 

Dixie State University dental hygiene students pose with the dental hygiene program’s bus on campus, St. George, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Lindsey Erickson, St. George News

Since 1998, the clinic has allowed dental hygiene students to offer cleaning services to community members under the supervision of licensed dental hygienists and dentists. The students working at the clinic are seniors working toward their bachelor’s degrees. Assistant professor of dental hygiene Viki Austin told St. George News the program benefits both students and community members in numerous ways. 

“Our patients invest more time than money,” Austin said. “By being willing to take the time, they will be helping our students. It’s a win-win for the community and for students.”

The clinic offers X-rays, cleanings, fluoride varnish, teeth whitening and sealant to adults and children for between $7-$60. Each appointment takes about three hours because a professional hygienist has to check the students’ work with each patient.

Instructor of dental hygiene Sue Caton said each of the clinic’s 22 students sees an average of one patient a day. Students are responsible for finding their own patients to make sure they are meeting their quota. The clinic is open for four days a week in the fall and seven days a week in the spring. 

During junior year, the dental hygiene students practice mostly on each other when they’re not studying out of a book. Senior Lindsey Erickson said it can be a bit nerve racking to start seeing real patients senior year, but it’s also the best part of the program. 

“This year I’ve seen a lot of random people, and I really enjoy being able to educate them and make them feel comfortable,” Erickson said. “I feel like it’s my job to let them know I’m here to help them.”

Having the practice also boosts her confidence when she thinks about doing this work for the rest of her life, she said, adding that the clinic provides dental care access for many people who would not otherwise have it. And as a result, when she graduates in May, Erickson will have experience that dental hygiene students at other schools won’t. 

“All of our teachers really focus on getting us out there, and I love Dixie for that,” she said. 

In addition to the clinic, the dental hygiene program also visits elementary schools, nursing homes and other local businesses with their own bus equipped to provide cleanings for anyone who needs one. Austin said anyone with specific hygiene needs is encouraged to make an appointment to give the students more diverse experiences. 

The clinic is following local COVID-19 guidelines and works with the Southwest Utah Public Health Department to stay up to date. All students and instructors wear KN-95 masks, and the staff take their temperatures daily. 

More information about costs and services is available on the clinic’s website. To make an appointment, call 435-879-4900 or email [email protected]. A student will reach out to potential patients to schedule the appointment. Same-day appointments may not be available.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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