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Great Falls College aims to add more students to dental programs

Great Falls College dental program
Great Falls College dental program
Great Falls College dental program
Posted at 6:47 PM, Jan 27, 2022

GREAT FALLS — It's already been four months since the expansion of Great Falls College MSU's Dental Clinic, and has demand for dental hygienists and assistants is increasing, Great Falls college hopes to add more newcomers to their program.

The project was in the works in 2015; the 2019 Montana Legislature appropriated $4.25 million for the project, and Great Falls College used another $1.09 million of institutional funds to complete the addition.

Students and staff says the expansion has already made a difference.

Program director Robin Williams said, "We've already had some changes that have occurred. One of the things that was an issue with the previous clinic was the small space, so in a dental office, team work is really important, and we had a lot of trouble getting that team work concept worked into our curriculum. Now we have dental assisting students who are going in and assisting the dental hygiene senior students so they get to do those rotations."

The expansion will allow the only dental hygiene program in the state to accept an additional seven students into the program each year so it will be able to take in 25 students instead of 18.

One dental hygiene student who's familiar in working in both facilities says the past four months has made work procedures among patients much easier.

Hannah Johnson, who is a senior in the Dental Hygiene program, said, "Some of the benefits to having a larger space is you have a quieter atmosphere for patients. It's not as involved and stimulating as the old clinic. It's also nicer because that old clinic was put in 20 years ago, and since then we've learned a lot more about infection control and items such as that. So this space really accommodates for more space for aerosol producing procedures. The space is just wonderful."
Great Falls has just one of two dental assistant programs in the state (Salish-Kootenai College being the other), and as demand for dental assistants is on the rise, they are looking towards a bright future in students entering their program.

Williams added, "What I see is that more and more dental offices are going to be hiring certified dental assistants so that it can help them meet the needs of their patients much easier, and if they have to be certified, one of the fastest ways to be certified is to go through an accredited program."

According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for dental hygienists is projected to increase six percent, faster than the average of all other occupations, between 2019 and 2029.

Great Falls College can also accept more dental assistant students into the unique program that allows students to take the classroom portion of the program online from their hometowns while only traveling to Great Falls a couple times a month for the hands-on portion of their education.

Click here to visit the Great Falls College website.