New dental program to start in fall 2023


Scott Muir

A new dental hygiene program starts in fall 2023 in the Health and Life Sciences building, shown.

Dan Elson, Editor-in-Chief

AACC will offer an associate of applied science degree in dental hygiene starting in fall 2023.

The college hired Tonya Jeffries, who has a master’s degree in healthcare administration, to run the 70-credit, five-semester dental hygienist program and serve as AACC’s director of dental education.

“There has been an enormous shift in the demand for dentistry and hygienists,” Jeffries said. “In fact, right now there is a shortage.”

In the first six months of the pandemic, approximately 8% of dental hygienists left their jobs, according to the American Dental Association, which said that number dropped to 5% the following year. But the ADA study added that 2% of those hygienists said they had left the profession for good.

AACC also offers a non-credit dental assisting and radiology program, which consists of a lab, lecture and a workforce success skills course.

“I can tell you that the dental assistants that I know in the area are very excited for this program to open so that they can come and get their degree in dental hygiene,” Health and Sciences Dean Elizabeth Appel said.

As part of the for-credit program, students must take 21 credits of English, microbiology, human biology, chemistry and algebra and six general education credits.

Jeffries, who is completing a doctoral degree in community college leadership, said a dental hygienist prevents oral disease, cleans and polishes patients’ teeth, and prepares and organizes tools for the dentist.

Jeffries, who was the first African-American president of the Maryland Dental Hygienists Association, said she looks forward to “the best experience for our students to graduate and get into private practices that are local.”

She noted the program will benefit the community. Jeffries said community residents will be able to come to the Health and Life Sciences building and receive dental treatment from a student, with a supervising dentist on staff, for approximately $20 without insurance.

Appel said she expects some students from the non-credit dental assistance program to enroll in the new hygienist courses.

Some students from that program said they agree.

“I think it just gives [the dental assistant students] that opportunity to be a hygienist,” Kailey Howell, who graduated as a transfer studies student last year, said. “I definitely think that people will come here.”