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Open Collection of Student Writing (OCSW)




By Student Name

An assignment submitted in partial fulfillment

of the requirements for

DH 1400 Dental Hygiene Theory II

Salt Lake Community College

April 15, 2020



Oral Health on Wheels: A Service Learning Project for Dental Hygiene Students


Heather Flick, RDH, MS, MPH; Sheri Barrett, EdD; Carrie Carter-Hanson, RDH, MA, EdD


Service learning provides the opportunity of engagement amongst the community. It provides an experience towards both academic and personal development. Service learning plays a big role in the education of dental hygienists as well as in the education of many other professions. The impact that service learning has on communities is astronomical, as it benefits both of those providing and receiving the service.


The purpose of this research was to provide students with the opportunity of serving those with special needs and an underserved population of culturally diverse individuals. This opportunity was provided in hopes of enhancing students’ clinical skills while treating disadvantaged individuals.


Students at Johnson County Community College were able to provide service through a dental hygiene mobile clinic known as, “Oral Health on Wheels” (OHOW). OHOW worked with Johnson County Developmental Supports (JCDS), Johnson County Department of Health and Environment (JCDHE), and Center of Grace which is an outreach center. Patients from Johnson County Developmental Supports were diagnosed with developmental and intellectual disabilities. Patients from Johnson County Department of Health and Environment were pregnant women and patients from Center of Grace were mostly Hispanic adults.

The data for this research was collected between the years of 2009 and 2013 by faculty and staff of Johnson County Community College. The preventative services provided through OHOW were: prophylaxis, scaling, root planing, polish, fluoride, education, radiographs, dental exam, and referrals. Students were on a three week rotation, two times per week.

After the service in the Oral Health on Wheels mobile clinic, all the students were given a survey where their personal satisfaction and their personal growth was assessed. The survey was not mandatory and it was completed by ninety students. The survey was created to measure a few factors, those being: the level to where the mobile clinic improved the awareness of underserved populations; clinical skills, team work, confidence, and ethics. The survey consisted of twenty-five questions total. Ten questions were related to skill development, eleven to the experience, and four questions were dedicated to the students’ own personal reflections of what they learned, what could be changed, and any comments or concerns related to the clinic (Heather Flick, Sheri Barrett, Carrie Carter-Hanson, 2016).


Although the survey did provide both a qualitative and quantitative responses from the participants, it was not a reliable source to this research. The survey was not pilot tested. Therefore, it failed to demonstrate consistent results.


There were several threats to the validity of this research. It was not valid due to the fact that the survey was not mandatory to complete. Therefore displaying bias, it is impossible to tell if only those who enjoyed the service-learning experience were the ones who completed it as opposed to those who did not, or vice versa.


The results of this research demonstrated that it was able to meet the purpose stated (Heather Flick, Sheri Barrett, Carrie Carter-Hanson, 2016). Growth, confidence and satisfaction were reported by the students while serving those with special needs and the underserved population. Out of the ninety students who completed the survey, eighty-five students responded with results that met the expectations of the researchers. The results of the research also showed a p-value of < .05 (Heather Flick, Sheri Barrett, Carrie Carter-Hanson, 2016). Unfortunately the p-value was based upon an incomplete response rate, but there were enough students who chose to complete the survey, that the results were statistically significant.


Providing service learning through OHOW enhanced the clinical skills of dental hygiene students at Johnson County Community College. Through the service learning experience students were able to increase their confidence as clinicians, which prepared them to treat patients with intellectual disabilities and patients of underserved populations post graduation.

Insights gained

The authors received a positive result from this research. The Commission on Dental Accreditation requires students to have the ability to manage patients of diverse and underserved populations upon graduation (Heather Flick, Sheri Barrett, Carrie Carter-Hanson, 2016). The research demonstrated increased student interaction with intellectually disabled patients contributed to more positive attitudes towards that population.


This journal article is of significance because it demonstrated what great service learning is able to do for a community. Not only did it show how dental hygiene students are able to provide service for those of underserved populations but it proved to have a reciprocal effect. Just as students help patients with their oral health, patients help students become better clinicians.

Service Learning at Salt Lake Community College

Service learning is a critical component of the Dental Hygiene Program at Salt Lake Community College. Opportunities for service learning are included in college curriculums for several reasons. Those reasons are experience, confidence, and growth.

Service learning provides students with an experience outside of a school setting that will prepare them for future situations in clinical settings. The experience provides challenges that help students become better clinicians. As mentioned in the article, students at Johnson County Community College were able to serve patients of an underserved population. Students at Salt Lake Community College are often given service-learning opportunities involving patients of lower income families. These experiences prepare students early on to see patients of diverse backgrounds.

As demonstrated in the research, service learning is capable of boosting confidence. Because students are exposed to service-learning, they are further able to practice their clinical skills. Dental hygiene school pushes students out of their comfort zone and places them in diverse settings to help others. The more students are able to practice their skills out in the real world, the more confident of a clinician they are to become.

By means of providing service to patients from underserved populations and with special needs students develop personal growth, which can be incorporated as clinicians. Serving amongst different populations allows students to grow and learn from the different environments they are exposed to. They are able to explore new capabilities they might have not known were within themselves.

All things considered, service learning opportunities included in college curriculums provide students with experience, confidence, and personal growth. All which have the ability to shape a great dental hygiene clinician. Service learning prepares students for successful careers.


Flick, H., Barrett, S., & Carter-Hanson, C. (2016). Oral Health on Wheels: A Service Learning Project for Dental Hygiene Students. Journal of Dental Hygiene, 90, 226–233. Retrieved from

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