SIU dental hygiene students get specialized laser, community dentistry certifications

Dental hygiene students practice skills

(Above, from left) Saebyeol Kang and Mary Thomas receive laser instruction from Heartland Dental University laser trainers. (Photo by Russell Bailey) (Below) The Class of 2024 Dental Hygiene Seniors celebrate their success with Dental Hygiene Professor Jennifer Sherry, far right. (photo provided)

April 26, 2024

SIU dental hygiene students earn professional laser, community dental certifications

by Christy Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Students at Southern Illinois University Carbondale were surprised and excited the first time they aimed lasers at chicken wings, carrots, tomatoes and hot dogs. These delicious treats are actually the tools that upper-level dental hygiene students use to earn their special laser certification.

The students, who will graduate in May, tested the strength of various types of lasers, using them on food of varying textures and thicknesses to simulate what they would encounter when treating tissue in the mouths of future patients. Lasers can be used to treat mouth ulcers and other conditions by killing bacteria around teeth and in the mouth to promote healing.

Jennifer S. Sherry, professor of dental hygiene in the College of Health Sciences, said this is the second year SIU has offered dental hygiene students the opportunity to participate in optional laser training to earn special certifications. Sherry and Stacey McKinney, assistant professor of dental hygiene and program director, coordinated the full-day laser training event. They expressed their gratitude to Heartland College of Dentistry and laser trainers Yolanda Cox, Adandra Torres-Martin, Shannon Krajczar, Ashley Greco and Jennifer Kistner and the Academy of Laser Dentistry (ALD) for sponsoring the laser event and training students for a nominal fee.

Enhance students’ market competitiveness

Shirley said 15 students have taken the laser certification course, which they will find beneficial whether they are working in clinical practice or in a public health setting.

Laser training isn't the only additional certification SIU offers Saluki. All SIU dental hygiene students also earn Community Dental Health Coordinator (CDHC) certification.

Each student completes approximately 120 hours of modules during their junior and senior years. SIU students are one of only two groups in the state to complete the nine-month online CDHC certification, which offers the state's only bachelor's degree dental hygiene program accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation.

Shirley, who has served as the CDHC program's faculty coordinator since its inception on campus, said all of these things really set SIU's program and its graduates apart.

“SIU’s dental hygiene students have a very high employment rate,” Sherry said.

CDHC certification training, developed by the American Dental Association, allows students to better understand the issues community health providers encounter with patients and how to more effectively communicate and assess their overall needs, she said.

“Access to quality oral health care is critical for community members in every city across the country, and this certificate enables our graduates to provide these services to patients who may not otherwise have access to them,” Shirley said.

Students received their CDHC certificates during a special presentation on April 23 and will receive their Bachelor of Dental Hygiene degrees at the 9 a.m. commencement ceremony on May 11.

saluki hygienist

Class of 2024 Dental Hygiene Graduates and CDHC Recipients Listed by Hometown, and Those Earning Concurrent Laser Credentials


Illinois Arlington Heights:

McKale Cottrell* Bartlett:

Shannon Martin* One thought:

Addison Irving* Cambridge:

Lily Kessinger* Carbondale:

Elsa Ruberto Carpentersville:

Itzel Martinez* Chicago:

Azul Turner Edwardsville:

Raegan Toombs* Franklin Park:

Nicole Mora Geneseo:

Mary Thomas* Goreville:

Kelsey Daniels Jonesboro:

Maggie Rushmutt Mendon:

Alyssa Steenkamp* Millstatt:

Alexa Schaiber Nashville:

Sarah Staley* Oran Park:

Megan Topey* Plainfield:

Abhi Batala sandwich:

Emily Simek* Williamsville:

Hannah Trueax*

Florida Tampa:

Arianna Robinson*

kentucky Marion:

Sharon Collins*

Missouri Bloomfield:

Lily Hector Scott City:

Heather Kissy St. Louis:

Kendra Davis

Wisconsin Kenosha:

madison harrison

Republic of Korea Daejeon:

Jiang Xinxing*

For more details

To learn more about SIU's dental hygiene program, visit the website.  SIU also offers an online completion option for the Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene Administration and Education, designed for working dental hygienists with an associate's degree. Learn more online.


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