Jarriel Williams and Dane Hooser are 18 years apart and live miles away from each other, but they share a common bond – they are the only two male students in LFCC’s current class of 17 dental hygiene students. There have been no male graduates of the program in the past.
The five-semester Associate of Applied Science degree program is a joint venture between LFCC and Virginia Western Community College. Program participants do their clinical training at LFCC and participate in live lectures taking place at VWCC through compressed video.
Hooser, 23, lives in Toms Brook, while Williams, 41, commutes to the Middletown Campus from Herndon. Williams sees the dental hygiene program as his pathway to a more secure future.
“I’ve always done well,” Williams explained. “I’ve always been able to make good money. As time was going on, once 9/11 happened, it was hard to find jobs. Jobs weren’t around unless you had some kind of degree.”
He’d worked in manufacturing, but as the economy suffered, so did the job opportunities. Williams started taking some basic classes at Northern Virginia Community College. A trip to the dentist led him onto his current path.
“The hygienist was telling me about the program,” Williams, who has been married to his wife for 11 years, said. “It only took two years to complete. The money aspect was great.”
Meanwhile, Hooser, a Strasburg High School graduate, was taking liberal arts classes after having worked with his mother for a company selling books to teachers. That industry had been doing really well about 15 years ago, he said.
“The changing marketplace doesn’t wait for anybody,” Hooser said. “I want consistency for myself. I talked to some people who were in the dental hygiene program, and thought, that sounds like a really good program to get into.”
Both men said the first semester was “crazy,” with six classes and two clinicals. But, there was a “certain familiarity” with the course by the second semester, Hooser said.
At LFCC’s dental clinic – which provides free comprehensive dental exams – the student hygienists provide cleanings, assessments, X-rays, sealants, topical anesthesia and more.
Williams has been a dental assistant for about two years. He works at a practice in Sterling. Some clients have been surprised to see a man behind the mask.
“There’s been a couple of patients that I will hear them say, ‘Oh, it’s a guy.’” Williams said.
“Guys only make up 4 percent of the industry.”
“Which is crazy to me,” said Hooser.
He has had similar reactions to his gender, too.
“There’s kind of a weird stigma when you’re a guy in a typically female profession,” Hooser said.
“The same goes with nursing. When I applied, gender wasn’t even a factor for me. It’s just a good program to get into.”
The men said the salary for a dental hygienist starting out in is in the $35-40-an-hour range, with it being more than $50 an hour in Northern Virginia.
“It’s not just about that,” Williams said. “I enjoy helping people and it’s interesting.”
Hooser added, “I love all the people I’ve met. Everyone in the program has been fantastic.”
The men enjoy the lecture format, too. Williams said he enjoys being able to go back and re-watch them.
“I do very well on the exams doing it that way,” he said. “If you miss something during the live lecture, you can always go back and listen to it.”
“It’s real time, you can raise your hand,” Hooser added.