December 16, 2019

USD Dental Hygiene Students Meet State's Need for Dental Health Professionals

A group of students from the University of South Dakota Department of Dental Hygiene are preparing for one of their many service-learning activities happening this Saturday, Feb. 1 at 12 p.m.

The Church on the Street Health and Healing event, sponsored by First Lutheran Church in Sioux Falls, will provide relaxation and rejuvenation to people who struggle with poverty in the area. The USD dental hygiene students will volunteer their time to offer free dental services to all who attend. 

Service-learning has not only become a critical piece in the dental hygiene curriculum at USD, but it has also become a valued resource across the state, specifically in communities that experience gaps in care. Throughout their junior year, dental hygiene students see patients at the on-campus clinic in either Vermillion or Sioux Falls. When they are seniors, they travel to outreach sites that are oftentimes located in underserved communities throughout the state such as correctional facilities, tribal dental clinics, senior centers, area schools and more.

According to South Dakota Department of Health, over 40 percent of South Dakota counties have a shortage of dental health professionals. As the only dental hygiene program in the state, USD continues serving those underserved communities through its state-of-the art oral health treatment and education programs.

“We prepare our students very well for the future, not just for exams, but to be great professionals,” said Carissa Regnerus, associate professor in dental hygiene.

With this stringent program having such a large focus on students working independently, they are thoroughly prepared for the workforce the moment they graduate. While most programs claim a 100 percent placement within a year, USD’s dental hygiene program has nearly a 100 percent placement in the profession within a short three months. 

Maddie Gutnecht, a senior in the dental hygiene program, said when she graduates, she will face the field with a solid foundation.

“When you’re in a private practice, you’re going to be on your own,” Gutnect said. “The program does a really great job of leaving us on our own, but they are always there in case we need someone. I feel very proud to be a future graduate of the USD Dental Hygiene program.”