Dental Hygiene Students Research Claims of Cavity Fighting Products


UNMC Dental Hygiene students clockwise from the top left, Hana Berge, Isabella Hamaker, and Russell Brezina, start their experiment on products for oral hygiene. Photo by Chabella Guzman

By Chabella Guzman, PREEC communications

Bacteria are growing in the Plant Pathology Lab, but the bacteria have nothing to do with plants but the kind of bacteria you might find on your teeth. 

The lab typically grows pathogens Dr. Bob Harveson, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Plant Pathologist at the Panhandle Research Extension and Education Center in Scottsbluff, is researching. This month, though, it is also hosting dental hygienist students from the UNMC College of Dentistry with Dental Hygiene West Division in Gering. 

The current dental hygienists using the lab are Hana Berge, Russell Brezina, and Isabella Hamaker, all juniors at the dental college. The research partner’s first project is a study on three products to fight cavities caused by streptococcus mutans bacteria. 

“We have three products we are using in the experiment to see which one is best to use against cavities,” said Hana Berge. “We will be testing the three against chlorhexidine, the gold standard for killing bacteria in oral hygiene.” One of the test products is being sold as a “natural” product. Berge said these kinds of natural products are popular on social media. “The information behind them (products) may not be the most accurate. So we are testing to see what happens, and if we have patients interested in the product, then we can give recommendations on what is best for them.”   

Juniors at the dental college take a research methodologies course, where they choose projects related to oral hygiene. 

“The first week of the project, they do a pilot, and then the following week, they will run the full experiment,” said Nicole Baker, UNMC dental hygiene instructor and project mentor. “The students will work on their research paper into their senior year and then present the results in Lincoln at UNMC College of Dentistry.”  

The dental college doesn’t have a lab, so they appreciate partnering with the Panhandle Research Extension and Education Center in Scottsbluff and Dr. Harveson to use their lab. 

To learn more about the UNMC College of Dentistry with Dental Hygiene West Division in Gering, visit