CODHA Explorer November 2022

Adriana (Adri) Perez

We all worked hard during our dental hygiene education and some of us faced greater challenges than others. Now, that we are well established in our wonderful profession, those days may seem like a distant memory… However, the challenges during school are very current for today’s dental hygiene students. We are highlighting one very special student who has graciously shared her story with us.

Adri is a 2nd year dental hygiene student at Concorde Career College. Adri shares that her goal when she becomes a dental hygienist will be to educate both patients and non-dental providers about the relationship between oral and systemic health. Adri feels that physicians and other healthcare personnel are not aware enough of the importance of oral health. She also feels strongly about the significant role of dental hygienists in preventing high blood pressure and diabetes. And she emphasizes the value of checking blood pressures at each dental hygiene visit. As a former dental assistant, she says she did not realize the importance of the health history and feels it would be helpful if dental assistants knew more about relationships between systemic and oral health. She feels that sometimes dental assistants view the health history more as ‘paperwork’ instead of the critical document that it is. Adri is determined to make a difference in how dental and medical personnel and patients view oral and systemic interrelationships.

Resilience and Challenges
Adri is rearing her sister’s four children while a student in a very challenging dental hygiene curriculum. These children are 13, 10, 4 and 1 month old and she has been caring for them for the past six years! Fortunately, she has another sister who helps out during Adri’s school hours. Impressive indeed! In addition, Adri shared that she also experienced a recent loss when her mother passed away after an extended illness. The Explorer extends condolences to Adri on her loss. Read on for how Adri answered additional interview questions we posed.

Explorer editor: How did you decide to become a dental hygienist?
Adri: My mother was a dental assistant and front office manager, and my uncle was a dentist. I also worked as a dental assistant and was planning to attend dental school. When my mother became ill, I began to see life through a different lens and wasn’t sure I still wanted the stress and liability that goes along with being a dentist. Being a dental hygienist began to seem like a much better plan because of the increased flexibility and I can still make a difference in other’s lives. I had two cousins who had gone to Concord, and I served as their patient during that time.

Explorer 3ditor: How has the school experience been for you so far?
Adri: Even though my cousins went through the program, I found that it was more work and commitment than I had realized. I tis hard to manage everything. However, classmates are a great help and I have a good support system. My classmates are from many different backgrounds and age groups. This diversity contributes to our education in a good way.

Explorer editor: What is the most interesting thing you have learned in school so far?
Adri: I thought I knew a lot from working in dentistry, but I have been humbled. My favorite thing now is clinic. I love being in the clinic because what I have been learning with books, I can see now in the mouth. I love seeing the positive response after treatment as we are arresting disease.
I have also learned resilience. I am a completely different person now after experiencing dental hygiene school. I can see higher goals for myself. I used to have underlying doubt in my abilities. Before, I had difficulty asking for help; now I can. Dental hygiene school stretches you in more ways than you realize.

Explorer editor: What are your plans after you graduate?
Adri: My heart is pulling in different directions. I have a heart for public health, but I also enjoy Perio, especially because I worked in a surgical setting in the past. I do plan to join ADHA.

Editor’s Note:
I’m guessing you agree now that Adri Perez is, indeed, a most impressive dental hygiene student. Sounds like she will be a real asset to our profession. We will look forward to greeting her as a CODHA member next year!