Ohio State Dental Journal

Dental Hygiene Journey

Two second-year Dental Hygiene students—Jessica Carder, a small-town girl who balances her schoolwork with cheering for the Buckeyes, and Veronica Harris, who traveled 3,000 miles from California to pursue a second career after she was laid off as a juvenile counselor—continue their journey toward graduating from their program in spring 2016. They reflect on what they learned in and out of the classroom their first year. (Read the beginning of their journey.)

Jessica Carder

Jessica Cader and Brutus Buckeye
Jessica with Brutus Buckeye.

On challenges during the first year

Stepping into clinic for the first time was definitely a challenge. There are many different steps in clinic that can seem overwhelming. I was nervous for my first day in clinic, but I did not want to show that on my face to my patient, so I went into my first patient with confidence. As patients came in I continued that confidence and learned from my mistakes. There were times in clinic I could have handled situations better, but the instructors are great about letting you know how you can do better. I took their comments and made myself better and considered them a learning experience.

On balancing cheerleading with a demanding course load

Balancing cheerleading has been a challenge, but I was able to work my way through it. Since practice takes up a majority or my weekday evenings and games take up a majority of my weekend—especially football—I was able to dedicate Sundays to school and catching up. I use every free hour I can to squeeze in an assignment and occasionally fit in some late night/early morning study sessions for exams during the week. I also live off of a “to do list” and my planner.  I don’t think I could have handled dental hygiene school without those.

On making new friends

 I have made so many of my best friends in my class. Within the first week of practicing in each other’s mouths we became close on a whole new level. I know I have made friends that will be there for me for the rest of my life. We have bonded through many experiences—from each other’s birthdays to our ADHA trip to Nashville. A group of 18 of us went to Nashville to attend a table clinic conference and while we were there we valued our free time exploring the city. We had the best time and even made a 3-minute video to a Jason Aldean song. Those types of memories I can hold on to!

On the future

During my final year I am looking forward to graduating and finding a job as a practicing hygienist as well as cherishing every moment of cheering on a national championship team in the ‘Shoe! My plans after I graduate are to move back to Zanesville, Ohio where my family is and practice as a hygienist!

Veronica Harris

On challenges during the first year

One of my challenges that I faced was dental anatomy. It was like learning a new language. I was determined to learn this new language. I remember arriving to school at 6:30 a.m. before everyone else to study the material and work with teeth that were left for us to study in the lab. By the end of the semester I was able to identify every characteristics of a tooth.  I also struggled with balancing my personal life and school. I didn’t have a personal life at all. I don’t think I turned my TV on once during the week. This was okay with me because I knew that it would be worth it in the long run. I was so excited about this new educational journey that studying every day was okay with me.

On first-year highlights

Veronica Harris
Veronica at the National Dental Hygiene

There were so many highlights during my first year! I had the opportunity to present a research topic that I worked on at the National Dental Hygiene Convention in Nashville. It was a great experience for me because I had the opportunity to combine two topics that I’m interested in: Criminal Justice and Dental Hygiene (breaking barriers to oral hygiene in today’s prisons).  I had the opportunity to present my topic to judges and meet other dental hygiene students from other schools around the U.S. Another highlight was being able to see patients in clinic my second semester. This was very exciting because this is what I worked so hard for and it was happening so fast. Although I was nervous, I was ready to provide care to my patients. When I completed my first prophy (it took two appointments) I knew that I had picked the right career. It’s such a wonderful feeling to be able to provide care to my patients.

On making new friends

I have made a lot of friends at the College of Dentistry. I have specifically bonded with two other girls in my program that are also mothers.  It also helps that we will live in the same community on campus for students with families. Not only have I made friends in the dental hygiene program but I have also made friends with some of the dental students as well. It’s great that we take some of the same classes as the dental students because there have been times when I could study with a dental student if I needed the help and vice versa. We are like a big family. I’m glad that I have had the opportunity to meet such great people. These are friends that I will have for a lifetime.

On favorite first-year memories

I’m so glad that I picked this college. Graduation is approaching really fast. It’s a bittersweet feeling. I have created some of the greatest memories here—from attending Mandiball to helping build the float for homecoming, attending the 125th anniversary gala, tailgating with the dental fraternities…and I can’t forget sneaking out on the football field to get group pictures with my classmates. We study hard here but we have a lot of fun as well.

On the future

My plan after I graduate is to work in private practice. I would like to continue school and earn a Master’s degree. I would like to start my own nonprofit organization and provide oral healthcare to underserved youth around the world.