This academic year marked some firsts for the Regis College Dental Center. To ensure academic progression for dental hygiene students, the Waltham facility was one of the university’s first programs to re-open during the pandemic.

A Dental Hygiene student treats a patient in the Regis College Dental CenterStudents, faculty, and staff returned in mid-August under strict COVID-19 safety measures including onsite testing, staggered scheduling, and expanded PPE protocols.

“It is definitely different, this new normal,” said Karolina Urbe ’22. “With the additional PPE the first one or two weeks were a little difficult but we’re getting used to it and it is going well.”

This semester is also the first for Karen Hallisey-Pesa as director of the dental hygiene program. She succeeded Denise Tetreault who retired this summer. Both were integral in Regis College’s adoption of the dental hygiene program from Mount Ida College in 2018.

“This entire experience has showed me you have to delegate in order to do the best you can and have everyone invested,” said Hallisey-Pesa, who joined the dental hygiene faculty in 2018. “We’ve been very upfront with the students about why we are doing what we are doing.”

Among the more significant changes at the Dental Center is students are not performing aerosol generating procedures, such as the use of ultrasonics, the air/water syringe, or polishing.

“We have the luxury of AGPs being niceties but not essential at this time,” said Hallisey-Pesa. “We tell the students that at their hand instrumentation skills will improve.”

Students are able to perform AGPs at external sites where they receive additional clinical experience. Sabrina Gubnitsky ‘22, said the “externship” like one at a pediatric dental group in Milford give the students a different perspective.

“This semester we are taking what we learned last year and doing it more quickly,” Gubnitsky said. “It has been good so far although it was a little hard at the start with all the changes.”

Despite the additional protocols, Hallisey-Pesa said there is a steady stream of patients. The new guidelines for patients includes symptom screenings two days before and after their appointment, and getting their temperature checked when they arrive.

“The patients have felt comfortable and at ease with all the new protocols,” Hallisey-Pesa said. “They have been good at social distancing and mask wearing. It has been running pretty seamlessly.”

Hallisey-Pesa said the Dental Center will stay the way it is for the foreseeable future, but admitted they will soon need to consider restarting AGPs with the appropriate PPE in place.