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Celebrating 100 Years: Adventure And Fulfillment As A Dental Hygentist

Celebrating 100 Years: Adventure And Fulfillment As A Dental Hygienist

From Romania and Germany to North Texas practices, alumni from the Collin College dental hygiene program call themselves educators at heart.

Diverse in their motivations for completing the two-year American Dental Association (ADA) accredited program, graduates express fulfillment from the opportunity to teach oral health care to a range of people worldwide.

Collin College Alumna, Kristin Cameron speaks to a crowd in Romania.

“I felt unfulfilled in my business career, so I started pursuing dental hygiene,” Kristin Cameron, a 2012 graduate said. “I loved everything about it—the professionalism, serving and educating others, the patient interaction, the flexibility, work culture and opportunities to aid the underprivileged, locally and abroad.”

Between her first and second year, Cameron found herself serving in Romania, a country without a dental hygiene profession. While there, Cameron took part in elementary education and health fairs with more than 500 attendees.

“I got to use the skills I learned while at Collin College to bring joy and healing to the people of Braila, Romania,” Cameron said. “The people were so grateful. For me, it was so special to be able to provide a service (dental hygiene) that we sometimes take for granted in the United States.”

Kristin Cameron and her translator in Romania treat a patient.

Celebrating its 100th anniversary as a profession this year, dental hygiene has come a long way from its Bridgeport, Conn. Roots, where Dr. Alfred Fones, convinced of the importance of disease prevention, trained his cousin, Irene Newman, to work as what would later be known as the first dental hygienist.

Collin College Dental Hygiene Director Susan Moss said outreach and prevention remain major components of dental hygiene and the Collin College program today.

Students in their final year of dental hygiene visit numerous community sites, senior centers, nursing homes, Head Start programs, clinics and local schools, gaining experience with different populations, cultures and ages, just as Fones envisioned in 1913.

Currently loving her work educating and teaching children at Texas Pediatric Dentistry in McKinney, Cameron says she hopes to return to Romania to teach as part of the nations’ first dental hygiene school.

Simultaneously aware of the need for dental hygiene abroad, Collin College alumna and civilian contractor with the U.S. Army, Reinette Burk, spent nearly five years in Germany working on an American base.

Collin College alumna, Reinette Burk in Germany

“There’s a feeling of freedom that comes with a job in dental hygiene,” Burk said. “It’s portable and flexible. I can go anywhere.”

Burk treasured the opportunity to travel Europe extensively and serve America’s finest. She viewed the job as a teaching position.

“I would explain how to care for their mouths in terms that impacted them – why they might want to change their behavior, not just that they needed to,” Burk said.

For Holli Severance, another Collin College alumna and current hygienist with dreams of a physician assistant degree, it’s the relationship building she’s enjoyed the most.

“I have grown great relationships with my patients,” Severance said. “I have watched middle school kids start high school, college students get married and start families and adult patients have grandbabies. It has been so fun educating my patients on oral hygiene and how it relates to overall health.”

Dr. Jacob Grapevine, a North Texas dentist who employs a Collin College graduate, agrees with Severance.

“I think the long-standing, trust-filled relationship is one of the qualities that makes the dental hygienist position such a valuable tool for patients,” Grapevine explained. “Collin College not only equips the students with the knowledge and techniques to be successful, but emphasizes the importance of the patient relationship. If you really know who you are treating, then you will be more successful in helping them achieve their goals.”

For more information on the Collin College Dental Hygiene Program visit