Dental student Taylor Martinez holds a metal tray filled with alginate in place as she waits for the material to harden on dental student Audrey Jones’ teeth. Lane instructor Lakrisha Gordon watches during a lab day at the Lane Community College Dental Clinic on Jan. 26.

Students of the Lane Community College Dental Assisting and Hygiene programs learn from textbooks and hands-on experiences. The dental assisting certificate program and the dental hygiene associate’s degree program is taught in the Dental Clinic located in downtown Eugene.

For the last five years the programs have experienced completion rates of 95-100 percent. Even though Lane’s dental program is meeting its goals, the clinic may be facing cuts in the future if the Affordable Care Act is repealed.

Graduates are gainfully employed with dentists throughout the community. Many students achieve employment before their graduation date due to their required Co-op Education Internships in local offices.

“Finding a job after the program is not difficult. The instructors deeply care about the success of their students,” 2016 graduate Caitlinn Witt said.

Lane’s dental program is overseen by American Dental Association’s Commission on Dental Accreditation. Regulations and criteria are met by the clinic to adhere to their policy, but is also tailored to the students needs.

“During the program students take all of the national and state board exams needed to work in Oregon so they are ready to begin working immediately upon graduation” instructor and co-op coordinator Leslie Greer said.

The programs include classwork, labs and hands-on experience during the co-op education internship. The clinic provides a variety of dental services from exams, x-rays and cleanings to restorative care for patients. Dental clinic services are open to students, faculty, staff and the public.

Patients’ dental care needs are offered at a low cost, and Oregon Health Plan is accepted. “Appointments are often more readily available at our clinic than with other OHP providers, allowing patients to get their treatment needs cared for in a shorter period of time,” Greer said.

The programs are led by a staff who works as a team to create a comfortable teaching environment for the students to reach their future career successfully.

“I graduated from Lane’s dental assisting program in 1981. I worked in the community for 22 years, then in 2003 started teaching part-time at Lane. I have a real passion for dentistry and providing exceptional care to my patients. I love helping students learn and passing that passion on to the next generation of dental assistants,” Greer said.

Both dental programs are fast-paced for the students. The hygiene program is a two year associate’s degree, while the dental assisting program is a nine month certificate program.

“Coordinating schedules of clinics, labs, family and work is difficult, but it wouldn’t deter me from pursuing the program if I had to do it again. However, it is a very intense ending to the whole process. You must come into the program prepared for the demands,” current student Eileen Barry said.

Concerns for the changing insurance landscape

“It almost feels like the healthcare industry is about to go through another whiplash of change,” Barry said. “I think regardless of your profession, the Affordable Care Act is likely to be on everyone’s mind as it seemingly hangs in the balance.”

President Donald Trump signed his first executive order on Jan. 20 which started the ball rolling to dismantle The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. If this repeal is successful 550,000 Oregonians who receive subsidies or benefits of Medicaid will feel a substantial change according to Commonwealth Fund, an independent research facility located in Washington DC.

Lane’s dental clinic will stand firm with their mission to educate students and serve the dental needs of patients within Lane county should the Affordable Care Act be repealed.

“If the Affordable Care Act is repealed without equitable replacement, we will likely lose the very patients that provide the best learning experiences for the second year dental hygiene students,” Greer said. “Should that happen, we will continue to deliver quality care at extremely low prices, hoping to provide access to dental treatments to all members of the community while creating educational opportunities for students of both Dental Assisting and Hygiene programs.”

On Saturday Feb.4 the Dental hygiene program is hosting a free dental clinic for “Give kids a smile day.” Many dental services will be provided for free to the public.