Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon

Student Stories

Dentistry in Australia, by Elena Mihailescu Boynetskiy

Elena Mihailescu Boynetskiy

After my husband and I moved to Australia a year and half ago, I found myself looking for some job opportunities. I am a 2005 graduate of PCC’s dental hygiene program and was previously a dental assistant.

There were a few differences that I had to get used to. First, Adelaide, the city where we live, is a bit slower in the dental progress compared to other larger cities such as Sydney. So when I talk about my experience it’s merely upon the exposure that I had working in Adelaide.

The dental treatment is generally more basic and the majority of dentists prefer the simpler dental treatment. I have not seen any large cases that I’ve seen in my previous U.S offices. This is not to say that there is no cosmetic or implant dentistry - it does exist, it’s just not as widely recognized. Also I have noticed a lot of dentists doing teeth cleanings.

One of the biggest contrasts was the way sterilization procedures were carried out. There are two tests that are performed with the autoclave before regular sterilizing is done. In the beginning of the day the autoclave is placed through a vacuum cycle. This is done to determine the air-tight integrity of the autoclave’s chamber and plumbing system. After the vacuum test the Bowie-Dick test is performed and this test makes sure there is accurate steam penetration into the porous load. Every cycle has a number that is attached to it which prints from the autoclave and all the autoclave bags are numbered under the cycle number. In addition, after each sterilization load the contents of the load are all documented in addition to the printout. When a certain set of instruments are used for the patient, the number of that sterilization bag gets documented into that patients’ records.

During chairside assisting, there is not as much instrument passing. The dentist takes the instruments that he or she needs off of their own tray most of the time. The assistants, also called dental nurses, have slightly different responsibilities. In the dental office (or surgery as they call it) they are cross trained in both the dental assistant and receptionist duties.

In Australia, most assistants do not take x-rays because they would need to have a Certificate IV but the majority hold a Certificate III. In a recent survey that I found, only 20% of assistants have their Certificate IV to be able to take x-rays. Also overseas radiology qualifications are not accepted by Australia.

When paying for treatment patients use their insurance card to pay. They simply hand their insurance card to the receptionist. She then swipes it through a HICAPS machine. This automatically makes a payment of whatever percentage the patient signed up for with their insurance and the rest of the balance or “gap” is paid on the spot with the patients’ credit or debit card.

Dental Hygiene Community Service

PCC Alumna Michelle Turner

Michelle Turner

It took three tries to get into PCC’s wildly popular and highly regarded Dental Hygiene Program but Michelle Turner’s persistence and patience paid off.

Turner, who graduated from Beaverton High School in 1984, spent many years as a dental assistant in offices across the Portland area. By the late 1990s, she put her long-held dreams to become a dental hygienist to the test. She applied and applied and applied again before she ultimately got her acceptance letter.

"The first time I was rejected and the second time I was waitlisted," Turner said. "I just kept taking more classes and did what I needed to get better grades."

Turner now gives back to her alma mater as part of a PCC team working with Medical Teams International, which takes dental hygienists and hygiene students to Romania and Honduras to provide dental care for children.

Read more of this story. (Communities Magazine, fall 2009, p. 5 )

Tasha Kendall, Cam Saki, April Cherney, Anna La, Harry Adams and Janie Strickland

students and staff who went to Honduras

A small group of PCC dental hygiene students and faculty joined forces with Northwest Medical Teams for a trip to Central America in the spring of 2006. Their mission was to help poor children get the dental care they needed. In total, the group served 257 kids, care worth around $85,000. With the help of three Peace Corps translators, the students spent four and a half long days, eight hours a day, working on the kids, many of whom had never seen a dentist. Read more of this story.

Sealant Day helps local youth, PCC dental students

dental students on Sealant Day

The Dental Department at PCC once again hosted Sealant Day. This is a student run project where local school children visit to have their teeth cleaned by PCC students. The event introduces the kids to dental hygiene and gives the students an opportunity to practice their skills on live patients. It’s the ninth consecutive year that students in the Portland Community College Dental Department hosted the Dental Sealant Day. The event marks National Children’s Dental Health Month. Approximately 40 second graders from local elementary schools receive oral hygiene education and have pit and fissure sealants applied to their teeth at no charge. Dentists screen eligible children at the schools to determine the need for preventive dental services. Sealant Day is only one of several service opportunities available to the dental hygiene program students. Second-year students also provide assistance to clinics in the area, teach oral health education in schools and visit long-term care facilities. Read more...

Dental students bring smiles to Romanian orphans

What would it be like to work 10-hour days, halfway around the world, performing dental work on Romanian orphans over Thanksgiving?

Ask several PCC students and staff who assisted Northwest Medical Teams, providing care to 130 children in the Transylvania region of Romania. PCC staff and students in Romania.

Josette Beach, dental hygiene instructor, talked about the emotional bond. We got so attached to the children being around them for five days, said Beach. We really developed some strong connections. And to see how much we have and so little they have.

All said it was an experience they would not forget. Read more of the story.