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Dental Hygienists Brush Away the Pandemic Blues

Photos Provided In this photo snapped prior to the pandemic and social distancing, Professor Stephanie Meredith instructs students in the Sara Whitaker Glass School of Dental Hygiene, part of West Liberty University’s College of Sciences. In addition to its undergraduate programs, WLU now has an online Master of Science in Dental Hygiene degree.

WEST LIBERTY — Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, dental hygienist students at West Liberty University’s Sarah Whitaker Glass Dental Hygiene School have managed to keep people smiling.

The dental hygienist program at WLU, under the direction of Stephanie Meredith, has 28 seniors and 33 juniors.

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, Meredith said the students in the dental clinic only had to make a few adjustments to meet health guidelines and to complete their coursework to graduate.

“We already have safety protocols in place in our classes and added the ADA and CDC guidelines with the K and N95 masks,” she said.

When in-person classes were halted in March, the students were able to continue coursework through a combination of Zoom lectures that required the students to participate live via computers, tablets, etc., with their video turned on.

These were interactive courses that required their complete attention.

In the fall, students also continued to learn their profession in the dental hygiene clinic at the university.

“The clinic was open and the community still came,” she said. “We welcomed patients for teeth cleaning. Our students need that experience. We do not do restorative work, only preventive service.”

Prior to having their teeth cleaned, patients undergo a pre-screening the day before and the morning of the appointments.

Patients wait in their vehicles and have their temperatures taken before entering the campus building.

That group of dental hygienists was able to complete its required coursework and graduate this year.

Current dental clinic students will return to classes in January and the dental clinic will open to patients after Martin Luther King Day which is Jan. 18.

Appointments are necessary to attend the clinic and can be made by calling 304-336-8633. There is a nominal fee.

Patients will be required to fill out a COVID questionnaire and have temperatures taken before entering the clinic. After Jan. 1, appointments will be made for Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Then at the end of February, appointments will be accepted Monday through Friday. The clinic accepts all ages.

Meredith assures that everything is done to protect both patients and students and such measures have always been in place.

Meanwhile, members of the Student Dental Hygienists Association at WLU had prepared a float for this year’s Main Street Bank Fantasy in Lights Parade in Wheeling.

Of course, the pandemic nixed the parade but not the enthusiasm of the students. Photos accompanying this story show they truly wanted to get their message out to the public.

Jen Blaskovich, an academic laboratory instructor at the university, said while the students were disappointed the parade was canceled, they proved their versatility in difficult times.

“They have been real troupers,” Blaskovich said of the students. “If nothing else, they learned how to adapt. They opened our eyes to how well they accept the challenges. We’re very proud of them.” Blaskovich also serves as adviser for the American Dental Hygienist Association students at WLU.

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