Midlands Technical College second-year dental hygiene students and faculty had a learning experience out of the classroom when they volunteered their services to hundreds of Midlands residents in need of free dental care. More than 800 patients received an estimated $600,000 in free dental care from about 100 volunteers from across South Carolina and other states.

This was the second time MTC dental hygiene students participated in Dental Access Days, sponsored by the South Carolina Dental Association.

“One of the first patients in line got to the fairgrounds at 10 o’clock the night before the event,” said Lee Muthig, Director of MTC’s Allied Dental Education Programs. “That’s how desperate he was to receive dental care.”

MTC Dental hygiene student Dana Panfil takes the blood pressure of a patient at Dental Access Days held at the S.C. State Fairgrounds.

MTC Dental hygiene student Dana Panfil takes the blood pressure of a patient at Dental Access Days held at the S.C. State Fairgrounds.

This is one of many hands on, first-class training opportunities MTC students benefit from during the course of their education. Events like the dental clinic enable the students to transition their skills from the classroom into community, which prepares them for employment after graduation.

“This event really brought it home to the students how many people in our area don’t have dental care,” said Muthig. “Students realize there is an opportunity for mission work in our neighborhoods without having to go on a mission trip or leave Columbia.”

MTC dental hygiene instructor Dr. Gina Ormond organized MTC’s participation in the event. She said participating in a community service project is an important component of the dental hygiene program.

“Getting out there in the community really helps them recognize the need for dental care in our state,” Ormond said. “They come to know how important their profession is and they get the opportunity to communicate with the public. They learn how to talk to patients one-on-one about their health history and vital signs. Communication is key.”

While patients received free care from the students, the students who volunteered received valuable insight into their intended professions.

“This service taught me how to work with the community,” said MTC student Casey Fulmer.

Student Stephanie Glock agreed saying, “It’s one of the best things I have ever done.”

For more information on Midlands Technical College’s Dental Hygiene Program, visit: midlandstech.edu.

Featured Photo: Second-year dental hygiene students, faculty, and staff volunteered at the S.C. Dental Association’s annual Dental Access Days.