Something New to Smile About at Hodges U

by Dr. Marie Collins,
Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs, Hodges University

Over the past several months, there has been plenty of activity in Building U at Hodges University. The interior is undergoing a total renovation to become the hub for professions in healthcare.

The revamped Health Sciences Building on our Fort Myers campus will be home to several healthcare programs, and a new one that will definitely make smiles brighter.

We have submitted an application to the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) for the initial accreditation of a new Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene program.

Enrollment of students into the dental hygiene program cannot occur until initial accreditation status is granted.

Accreditation for programs like this accomplish two important things. First, we have built a program that prepares students to be the professionals that we need in our community. Second, it is an extra measure to demonstrate the rigor and quality of the program.

It shows students that they are receiving a quality education and a degree that employers and patients respect. The demand for dental hygienists, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is expected to grow by 11 percent through the year 2028.

Right now, we offer an Associate in Arts degree in our School of General Studies with recommended courses to prepare students for entry into dental education programs as well as nursing, physical therapist assistant, and other health professions.

The science area of the degree includes laboratory classes in biology, anatomy and physiology, chemistry, and microbiology.

General education courses include computer applications, English composition, nutrition, algebra, statistics, psychology, sociology and humanities. Students are encouraged to enroll now to get ready for application to the programs that will prepare them for professions in healthcare.

A companion program that we are preparing to launch is dental assisting. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for dental assistants through 2028 is expected to grow 11 percent, more than double the average of all occupations. This is a non-degree path for students – one of the first such non-degree workforce education programs Hodges University has ever offered – and will be offered through our Hodges Connect division.

You may be wondering what the difference is between a dental hygienist and a dental assistant. A degree is required to become a dental hygienist. A dental hygienist most often works one-on-one with patients with a larger role in educating patients on the importance of maintaining good dental health. One of their major responsibilities is cleaning patient’s teeth and removing plaque that can build up at or slightly below the gum line. They also carefully examine their patients’ mouths, looking for any signs of oral diseases such as gingivitis.

Dental assistants are also an important asset to the dental team. A degree is not required although specialized skills are mandatory. Dental assistants work alongside the dentist to perform a variety of tasks as well as taking x-rays and making dental impressions models.

Going to the dentist may be dreaded by some, but with effective patient education and compassionate care, this dread can transform into a pleasant experience. What many may not realize is that good oral health care is essential to help prevent conditions like bad breath, tooth decay and gum disease.

Additionally, people who develop gum disease can increase their risk for other serious health problems, from heart attacks and strokes, to poorly controlled diabetes, and even preterm labor. We all know that a beautiful smile boosts your confidence. But did you know that it could also boost your immune system?

When you smile, it helps relax your whole body by releasing the feel good neurotransmitters – dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin. In addition to relaxing your body, it can lower your heart rate and blood pressure. Did you also know that you use fewer muscles to smile than you do when you frown?

At Hodges University, we are always working to develop programs that educate and train the professionals that our community needs and deserves. And that is another reason to smile. To learn more, visit

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