ALEXANDRIA, La. (WNTZ) – Louisiana State University of Alexandria (LSUA) and LSU Health New Orleans are thrilled to announce the launch of the first dental hygiene program in Central Louisiana. Working together, LSU Health New Orleans School of Dentistry expanded its Dental Hygiene program to an Off-Campus Instructional Site located in LSUA’s downtown campus.
The dental hygiene program is a two-year Bachelor of Science program that spans students’ junior and senior years of college. The curriculum is designed to challenge and empower students, covering courses like Oral Diagnosis, Radiology, and Physiology. Six students are selected each year, ensuring a focused and personalized educational experience. Students graduate from LSU Health New Orleans School of Dentistry.
“Although we are in New Orleans, we serve all of Louisiana – North and South. East and West. Urban and Rural,” notes Dr. Steve Nelson, Interim Chancellor of LSU Health New Orleans. “Because Alexandria is recognized as a Health Professional Shortage area and there is a great need for dental hygienists and improved access to care, we have been working with LSUA since 2019, along with a strong local contingent of dentists, association reps, the Louisiana Dental Association, and the Louisiana legislature to expand our dental hygiene program here. We owe special thanks to Senator Jimmy Harris for putting the funds in the budget and State Senator Glen Womack for helping to keep them in.”
Dental hygienists are licensed healthcare professionals who work closely with dentists to ensure patients maintain optimal oral health and dental hygiene. Their primary objective is to treat and prevent oral diseases affecting the teeth and gums.
In 2019, shortly after becoming Chancellor of LSUA, Paul Coreil received an outreach from Dr. Trey Carlton, President of the Central Louisiana Dental Association, who expressed the community’s strong desire to establish a dental hygiene pathway at LSUA. Together, they engaged with the Dean of the LSU Dental School in New Orleans, who embraced the idea. Tragically, the dean’s untimely passing and the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic temporarily stalled these plans.
In 2021, Carlton and Coreil joined forces with Annette Droddy, Executive Director of the Louisiana Dental Association, LSU Health New Orleans Interim Chancellor Dr. Steve Nelson, and School of Dentistry leadership. United in their mission, they collaborated to secure state appropriations that would enable the expansion of the dental hygiene program to Alexandria.
“It is no secret that oral health is very important to overall health, but most people do not know that there is a national shortage of dental hygienists. Central Louisiana is no exception,” noted Dr. Trey Carlton, former president of the Central Louisiana Dental Association. “The vision and commitment from LSUA, LSU Health Sciences Center, and our legislators to open this dental hygiene program is providing a huge opportunity for much-needed health care for our community.”
With funding secured and renovations completed at a downtown Alexandria facility by Rapides Regional Medical Center, the dental hygiene program launched this fall.
This momentous achievement brings access to high-quality dental hygiene education to Central Louisiana, enhancing the region’s healthcare resources and contributing to the broader goal of promoting oral health in the community.
“As we celebrate this dental hygiene program, we know we could not reach our goals without partnerships with LSU Health School of Dentistry and the local and state dental associations,” said Paul Coreil, LSUA Chancellor. “This program embodies our commitment to fill a vital workforce gap in Central Louisiana. It is a milestone showcasing how collaboration and foresight can elevate educational and healthcare outcomes in our community.”
LSUA continues to offer the most affordable tuition in Louisiana, allowing students to graduate career-ready and debt-free. This program adds another dimension to LSUA’s diverse degree offerings, further solidifying its reputation for delivering high-quality, cost-effective education.
At least three of every four dentists and hygienists practicing in Louisiana today are LSU Health New Orleans School of Dentistry graduates. The School is unique among all US dental schools in offering degrees in dentistry, dental hygiene, and dental laboratory technology. By teaching all aspects of dentistry, LSU Health New Orleans School of Dentistry provides a level of training that has earned a national reputation for outstanding academic and clinical education.