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News | Health Education and Human SciencesAugust 29, 2023

From Degrees to Dental Hygiene Excellence: A Journey of Passion and Purpose

Written By: Ian Silvester

When University of Arkansas – Fort Smith senior Abby Musset sat down to talk about how she came to UAFS, she quickly joked, “Not that people who like the dentist are weird, but if that’s the case, I’m a weird one.”
Abby came to UAFS in 2022 as a non-traditional student who had already earned not one but two degrees from Arkansas Tech. She received her bachelor’s degree in communications in 2015 and her master’s two years later in emergency management. But she felt like there was more she could offer.
Taking time to travel and working odd jobs here and there, Abby eventually found herself employed at a dentist’s office in Russellville.
“I tried my hand at dental assisting but always knew I wanted to do dental hygiene,” Abby explained.
While working as a dental assistant, Abby realized her proclaimed weird bicuspid passion was actually her career calling. As she began researching dental hygiene, her options unfolded before her.
“There’s only two (education programs) in the state. So, it’s either here (Fort Smith) or Little Rock, so I chose to try and apply here, and it worked out.”
As a Fort Smith native, her acceptance into the UAFS dental hygiene program was a homecoming. Since then, the program and university have provided Abby with the sense of belonging and direction she desired.
“A big reason why I came into the dental field is because I wanted to be able to change the perspective for kids,” Abby noted and talked about her intrinsic motivation for wanting her 6-year-old nephew to have a positive dentist interaction. “So many people have a bad connotation of the dentist and don’t have a positive outlook on it. To me, if we can start young or change that for someone, even as adults or teenagers, I just want to provide that positive experience for them.”
Coming to UAFS as a non-traditional student, Abby shared that she and her classmates are in different stages of life, but that hasn’t stopped them from bonding. It has even thrust her into a position of authority, leading a professional student organization affiliated with the College of Health, Education, and Human Sciences.
“I am president of our organization this year,” Abby beamed. Her leadership in and out of the classroom led to her classmates nominating her to lead the Student American Dental Hygienists’ Association, a role she is humbled to be in.
But it’s her classmates whom Abby admires.
“Most of my classmates are in their early 20s,” she said. “I think back to when I was that age, there’s no way that I could have handled all the stress that this program brings. Plus, we have several mothers, and I think they are incredible. They juggle their families while managing to tackle the program’s workload. We all have different things going on in our lives, and I love that we’ve been able to all lean on one another.”
With her second semester of clinical and the start of her senior year officially underway, Abby said she could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Despite having two degrees, she admits the dental hygiene program has been the most challenging she’s faced during her academic career. However, it is a challenge, and she looks forward to seeing where it leads her.
Citing a need in the industry for more hygienists, Abby is confident she can secure a job after graduation, although she wishes to answer a higher calling.
“Everyone has teeth; everyone has an oral cavity that needs attention,” Abby said. “As a believer, I think it would be so fun and a great opportunity to go (on a medical mission) to provide to communities that don’t have the means of getting good dental care.”
As Abby approaches the culmination of her studies at UAFS, she stands on the brink of a promising career and life in dental hygiene. Her journey serves as a reminder that education is not just a destination but a path to self-discovery, personal growth, faith, and an opportunity to touch the lives of others in profound ways.

  • Tags:
  • Non-traditional Students
  • Dental Hygiene
  • College of Health Education and Human Sciences