Some smiles at Dominion Senior Living of Athens are shining brighter because of students from Hiwassee College.
As part of the college’s dental hygiene program, students are involved in community outreach several times before graduating.
In light of this requirement, a group of 12 senior dental hygiene students visited Dominion Senior Living to perform treatments and examinations on patients, as well as lead educational sessions for Dominion’s staff members about how to better serve residents’ oral health needs.
Although this was not the first outreach for the students, it was the first time they visited an assisted living facility.
Randa Colbert, Hiwassee’s program director, spoke highly about the experience at Dominion.
“It’s been wonderful. The patients are so sweet and grateful and the staff is asking a lot of questions about dental needs and overall oral health,” she said.
For the betterment of students and the community, outreach experience is vital, according to Colbert.
“It’s important for them to have clinical experience outside of the norm,” she said. “They can benefit patients even by educating them and they can still shape the way someone views their own health — which is so important.”
Oral health awareness should be a universal priority, Colbert said.
“In general, it’s important because systemic health overall is directly related to oral health,” she said. “Awareness of oral health is important no matter what age group.”
Colbert noted that aging calls for additional attention on dental health.
“For older patients, many have prosthetics, tissue changes, gum changes, saliva changes, and it’s important to make patients and caregivers aware of oral health,” she said.
After treating her first Dominion patient, dental hygiene student Britney Hawkins said she enjoyed it.
“It’s fun and different. It’s challenging in a way, because we don’t have our chairs,” Hawkins explained. “It feels good to help others in need despite the challenge.”
Treating and examining residents was a learning experience, according to Hawkins.
“We are limited in our clinic, but today we got to experience geriatric and special care,” she said.
Athenian Cindy Watson, Hiwassee’s clinical coordinator, spoke about her interest in building a partnership with Dominion.
“It’s been an exceptional experience. I would definitely like to come back,” said Watson. “The residents are sweet, kind, and it’s very clean. The staff is accommodating and helpful. It’s pleasant here.”
Chesney Moss, life enrichment director at Dominion, explained she believes the experience was beneficial for all.
“It’s a big deal for our residents and staff — better care for our residents, building knowledge, and supporting the college in community outreach,” said Moss.
She also added that the students’ visit made the residents happy.
“Residents like new faces and people,” said Moss. “I hope to have more opportunities like this in the future for our residents.”