South Florida State College’s 2016 class of dental hygiene graduates came out on top on their national board examinations, with a 100 percent pass rate.

Blanca Cendejas ensuring proper hand hygiene before attending to a patient at SFSC’s dental education clinic.

Blanca Cendejas ensuring proper hand hygiene before attending to a patient at SFSC’s dental education clinic.

The soon-to-be dental hygienists completed their coursework in April and received their Associate in Science in Dental Hygiene degrees at SFSC’s May 5 Commencement ceremony.

With their diplomas in hand, the students started taking the national board examination. Then the waiting began, with students checking their mailboxes daily for the examination results.

“We knew going in this was a good, strong class,” said Dr. Deborah P. Milliken, chair of the Dental Education Department. “We just knew they were going to perform well on the boards.”

The examination scores started arriving. Graduate after graduate reported the good news to Dr. Milliken and the dental education faculty.

“At 5 p.m. last Tuesday, I got a call from one of our grads, Blanca Cendejas,” Dr. Milliken said. “She was the last student to report in to us. She was so excited, and so were we.”

Cendejas, a Desoto County resident, joined Nikki Atterberry, Allison Brooke Bivens, Sofia G. Chong, Nancy Jaramillo, Shelby Lynn Lambert, Maria Guadalupe Ruiz, and Janet Velasco in passing their national board examinations.

Milliken said admission to the program is competitive, with students required to take college algebra, microbiology, and anatomy and physiology before they are considered for entry into the program.

Dental hygienists complete a two-year associate degree program. Once they pass the National Dental Hygiene Board, graduates must also pass a practical examination administered by the Florida Board of Dentistry.

Cendejas, who graduated from DeSoto County High School, was on campus the day after getting her test results. “I was ecstatic when the letter arrived,” Cendejas said. “Next, is the state examination and then on to starting my career.”

Milliken said this year’s crop of graduates scored above the national average on all but two subject areas of the board examination. “And in those two areas of the examination, our students scored at the national average,” Milliken said.

Graduates find jobs in dental offices performing direct patient care, taking X-rays, and educating patients about oral hygiene.

Milliken noted last year’s class also had a 100 percent pass rate.

SFSC also offers a 11-month occupational certificate program in dental assisting.

For more information, contact the SFSC Advising and Counseling Center at 863-784-7131 or visit www.southflorida.edu.