World of possibilities await dental hygiene grad

Allie Deneen believes she has been destined for a career in dentistry since fourth grade when she wrote ‘tooth doctor’ in answer to a question about her future. Her mother held onto that school project. Today, Deneen says her fourth-grade fascination with teeth is what drove her to initially look into careers in dentistry. But it is the impact dental hygiene can have on people that has held her interest.

Deneen will graduate in August with a Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene.

“There are so many correlations between periodontal disease and systemic diseases,” she said. “I love being on the front line educating patients about oral health. Dental hygiene can have a huge impact on people’s lives and health.”

Deneen, a graduate of Lakeville North High School, will graduate in August with a Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene from the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry.

She says she gained confidence during a gap year she took before enrolling at the University of Minnesota. Her year of adventure took her to New Zealand and Australia, where she was exposed to new cultures, physical challenges and living out of a backpack for weeks while traveling with a small group of peers. She also explored Iceland and Spain as a solo traveler, all before moving into her dorm on the Twin Cities campus.

With graduation now in sight, Deneen reflects on her time in the dental hygiene program with fond memories. Remembering how she and her classmates developed new skills still makes her laugh.

“We were learning to take impressions on each other and we were initially terrible at this,” said Deneen, describing a process involving a putty-like substance used to take an impression of a patient’s teeth. “There was goop everywhere, on our faces, on our clothes, on the floor. It was a funny scene. After a lot of practice, we all became pros.”

She says the program has opened her eyes to opportunities for dental hygienists that she did not realize existed. Every hygiene student participates in hospital rotations at the University of Minnesota Medical Center and also collaborates with medical students on oral health topics. Through the school’s alumni association, she was assigned a mentor who is a practicing hygienist. They meet monthly with other mentor/mentee pairs to share advice and ideas about the future.

“The hospital rounding opened my eyes to a whole new world of possibilities,” said Deneen, who says she is eager to travel more. “It’s really cool to see that hygienists are being employed by hospitals now. Even a business route would be great. For now, I am pursuing a clinical hygienist role, and am excited to see where that leads.”

Allie Deneen
Allie Deneen