Competitive decisions in the Dental Hygiene program

Last year, Jessica Fette was denied admittance into Minnesota State’s competitive dental hygiene program.

So she buckled down. Repeated a course to get a better grade. Picked up a minor in communication sciences and disorders.

The hard work paid off.

“I was so happy I cried,” said Fette, a junior.

The dental hygiene program is known for its competitive application process as well as its clinic, located in the Clinical Science Building, which was renovated in 2017. 

The dental hygiene program offers a four-year bachelor of science degree in dental hygiene. The curriculum offers a hands-on experience that also provides healthcare services through students at the university. These components attracted more than 60 students to apply, but only 30 were accepted.

Fette was one of 30 student admitted to the program this year. Sixty students applied. Adding the communications sciences and disorders major, she said, will help her do her job better.“I want to be able to communicate with all of my patients better and help understand where they’re coming from,” Fette said. 

In her future, Fette aspires to be a pediatric dental hygienist, and encourages students hoping to pursue a career in dental hygiene to not be intimidated by the rigorous application process. 

“I don’t want to be too cheesy and say ‘Don’t give up,’ but it is a very competitive program, so if you want to do it, I think you should be all in,” Fette said. 

Trisha Krenik-Matejcek, a professor in the department of dental education,, went through MSU’s dental hygiene program 25 years ago. After teaching for 9 years, she stresses the value of the dental clinic that is visible to the entire Mankato community. 

“We have this beautiful, beautiful clinic,” Krenik-Matejcek said. “We are so lucky to have a beautiful building.” 

The dental clinic on campus offers a restorative functions course, a course that certifies students to complete teeth fillings. It also incorporates a simulation lab that contains all state of the art equipment and latest technology.

“It’s just like a regular dental office, it just takes a little longer because students are doing it, but they get a lot of really great experience with a lot of patients that are medically compromised or have extensive dental needs,” Krenik-Matejcek said. 

Also involved in the application process is MSU professor, Alyssa Delgado. She said the rigid selection process helps prepare students to start seeing patients after their first semester in the program. 

“They’re really spending nearly a year and a half actually in clinic, seeing patients, doing what they would do on the job,” Delgado said. “They’re getting that real-world experience right out of the gate because it really is practice makes perfect.” 

Students across MSU as well as in the Mankato area are able to schedule appointments at the dental clinic on campus.

“It’s kind of a win-win for the students,” Delgado said. “They get the practice and the technical experience by seeing patients, and then our patients are getting the experience of having a dental clinic that’s lower cost and takes all insurances.”

New member and junior at MSU, Ashley Rademacher, was also a second year applicant for the dental hygiene program. Despite being initially turned down, Rademacher was persistent with achieving her degree. 

“I feel like I’ve come this far, I’ve put in all this work, why would I give up on it?” Rademacher said. 

After repeating a few prerequisite courses and working at Mankato Family Dental, Rademacher was granted acceptance February 24. 

“I felt like there was a big weight lifted off my shoulders,” Rademacher said. 

Rademacher recalls being in the position of those who were denied acceptance for this fall, but motivates these students to keep trying. 

“Don’t cut yourself short,” Rademacher said. “It is worth it in the end to get that acceptance letter and get to take the next step.”

Department of dental education chair, Brigette Cooper, ensures trust in these students and their capabilities as dental hygienists. 

“They have lots and lots of hands-on experience working on patients in the clinic, and then also in clinics out in the community,” Cooper said. “The dental clinic in the clinical sciences building is always looking for patients.” 

Any type of dental service is available at the clinic on campus. Anyone can explore this cheaper alternative and support the incoming applicants by contacting (507) 389-2147.

Header photo: The Dental Hygiene program only accepts 30 students each year to learn hands-on experience through students at the university. (Dylan Long/The Reporter)

Write to Mercedes Kauphusman at

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