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Dental students brush up for exams

By Greg Gelpi

Fear and pain were a regular part of visiting the dentist when she was a child, but Laura Boggs wants to change that for other children.

Boggs, 38, of Jonesboro has "given up the past two years" of her life along with other students in Clayton College & State University's Department of Dental Hygiene to pursue careers in the medical field.

The seniors in the program are required to work in the university's dental hygiene clinic and are brushing up on their skills as they prepare to test for board certification.

"I had a bad experience as a child, and I thought if I could help one child not to have the fear I had," Boggs said. "It gave me a fear that I had most of my life. I don't want another child to go through what I did."

Learning from her dentist's mistakes and from a staff of professors, Boggs said that she works in the university's dental hygiene clinic and has encountered many patients fearful and hesitant, but she works to clear away those feelings while clearing away tartar and plaque.

She said the only way to prepare for last week's eight-hour written portion of the board examination was to "study, study, study," and the only way to prepare for next week's patient portion is to put the time in working on live patients.

Dr. Susan Duley, associate professor and department head, said that the clinic provides practical experience for the students and premium care for patients, serving about 28 people a day and more than a thousand in a year.

"A lot of people who need this care don't even know about it," Duley said. "Every step the students do must be checked by an instructor, so you won't get any better care than here."

Dental Hygiene students are also looking for volunteer patients to have their teeth cleaned during next week's board exams, she said. Patients who have their natural teeth, have tartar build up on their lower front teeth and haven't had a dental cleaning in a couple of years, are needed.

Tiffany Turner, 22, of Fayetteville will be taking the board exams and said she chose the career path because she wanted a job in the medical field. Dental hygiene also provides flexibility and a strong starting salary. In this area, dental hygienists start at $25 to $35 an hour, she said.

Duley said potential volunteer patients should call (770) 961-3441. For those who don't qualify as a volunteer, they can still be patients in the clinic, which has "greatly reduced" prices. People must call for appointments.

Clayton State's department offers the only four-year degree in the state.

"It's a very rigorous curriculum they have to go through," Duley said, explaining that students learn to take X-rays, detect dental diseases, clean teeth, screen for oral cancer, provide preventative education and apply sealants and whitening. The students must demonstrate these abilities during the board examinations.