Skip Navigation

College News

COVID-level cleanliness and a 99 percent pass rate for dental hygiene students

by Public Relations and Marketing | Published Dec 10, 2020

For the last two decades, students in College of Lake County’s (CLC) dental hygiene program have learned about high standards of infection control. At the same time they have provided preventative care to members of the community, averaging more than 2,000 patients per year at a cost of only $15 each since CLC's state-of-the-art dental clinic opened in 2009.

“Personal protective equipment and infection control protocol are not new to us, which is a good thing,” said Jan Salvadorini, clinic and infection control coordinator for the dental hygiene program. “We haven’t had to change much of our protocol. Following the CDC guidelines we added air purification and the use of a fogging system between clinical sessions. We also installed drapes around our treatment units making the workspace safer for both students and patients.”

Like all programs at CLC, dental hygiene in-person training took a hiatus last spring but has since returned to the clinical setting to ensure students are receiving the required hands-on training to graduate. Though all involved are looking forward to completing the program, it may be area dental offices who are most excited.

“Just about any dental office you go to in Lake County, you will find one of our graduates,” said Salvadorini. “Dental hygienists have always been in demand and that’s why it’s such a good field to go into. Even more so now because a lot of veteran hygienists have retired during the pandemic.”

Photo of Erica ChauStudents like Erica Chau (right) are ready for the challenge. “I realized an office job wasn’t for me and I really wanted something where I was working with my hands. Dental hygiene stuck out and I love cleaning so that fit really well, too.”

Chau is in her second year of study and among those students who had their graduation pushed back by a semester due to COVID. Prior to attending CLC, she earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology with minors in child development and studio art from a four-year university. When a friend in the dental hygiene program started talking up their experience, Chau became interested. After taking the leap and signing-up, she fell in love with the training.

“The main thing we do as hygienists is cleaning, or what we call “scaling” the teeth,” said Chau. “That’s just the most satisfying feeling when you can remove calculus, which is hardened plaque, off the teeth. You just kind of see it chip off.”

It wasn’t just the enjoyment of the work that surprised her, but also who she did that work with: her classmates.

“I didn’t expect the diversity in terms of experience and age. It’s a large age range,” said Chau. “There’s a bunch of people who also earned a bachelor’s degree but decided to go into hygiene or there’s parents with children. They’ve had this whole career and then decide to go into hygiene. It was nice to see.”

Diversity is valued among those in leadership at CLC which helps lead to the consistent 99 percent pass rate on the national licensure exam for dental hygienists. Students also earn an associate of applied science degree. It’s no wonder Salvadorini says CLC’s graduates are sought after. “We continue to be a resource for dental offices. There’s a steady flow of dentists who contact us when they have openings.”

About College of Lake County:

The College of Lake County is a comprehensive community college committed to equitable high-quality education, cultural enrichment and partnerships to advance the diverse communities it serves in northeastern Illinois. Offered at three campuses in Grayslake, Vernon Hills and Waukegan or online, college classes are affordable and accessible to help each student achieve academic, career and personal goals. More than 70,000 students graduated with degrees and certificates since the college opened in 1969. The College of Lake County is the only higher-education institution ranked among the top 15 best places to work in Illinois by Forbes and is a national leader in many areas, including sustainability and conservation.