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Relationships are the root of good dental care

David Wein, VCU dental hygiene student and military veteran, wants to instill a confidence in patients that promotes long-term connections.

dental student examining a man's mouth David Wein, who earns his degree in dental hygiene from the VCU School of Dentistry this month, will work at a family dentistry clinic in Midlothian. (VCU School of Dentistry)

By Olivia Trani

David Wein has a warm personality and a dedication to service. Now he is turning his compassion and commitment into a career in oral health.

This month, Wein will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene from Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Dentistry. As a hygienist, he hopes to provide more than the best dental care —he also wants to build relationships that keep patients returning to him.

“Being a dental hygienist is more than just knowing how to care for people’s teeth. It’s also about earning your patient’s trust,” Wein said. “Many of my patients have told me that they used to be scared of getting their teeth cleaned or having dental work done. I want to be the kind of dental hygienist that patients come back to because they know they’re in good hands.

“Patients will typically see their dental hygienist twice a year, which is sometimes more often than they’ll see their primary care physician,” Wein added. “In this career, you have the opportunity to build very strong foundations with patients over the years.”

For Wein, becoming a dental hygienist has been a goal for more than 10 years. After graduating from high school, he joined the military to raise enough money to continue his education. He served in the Air Force Reserves as a combat civil engineer for eight years, including a nine-month deployment in the Middle East.

During his military service, Wein earned his associate degree in general studies from Reynolds Community College, as well as worked in various health-related jobs. One involved working as a dental assistant at a family dentistry clinic in Richmond, an experience that solidified his plan to become a hygienist.

“That’s when I just knew that this is for me. I was excited to go to work every morning,” he said.

Being a dental hygienist is more than just knowing how to care for people’s teeth.
It’s also about earning your patient’s trust. 

David Wein, VCU School of Dentistry Class of 2024

Wein looked into dental hygiene programs across the state and chose VCU because of the program’s rigor and the opportunities for interprofessional collaboration.

“I had heard so much about VCU’s dental hygiene program being the best of the best in Virginia. When I was researching schools about the curriculum and the opportunities they provide, VCU came on top every time,” he said. “At VCU, the dental hygienist students also get to work with the dental students, which was also a big deciding factor for coming here.”

With his degree, Wein is now ready to make his dreams a reality, crediting the program’s faculty for equipping him with the education and skills to be successful in his career.

“The faculty are always there making sure that everything is going OK. They have been with me every step of the way,” he said.

As a testament to the value of his degree, Wein recently completed Virginia’s clinical board exam, which is used to evaluate students’ clinical skills before they are licensed to practice in the state. He scored 100%.

Wein added that the VCU program gave him opportunities to provide dental care to underserved populations across Virginia.

“At VCU, we provide dental hygiene services to people in our local community, but we also have rotations where we travel to free clinics in Martinsville, Danville, Chesapeake and other areas that have limited access to health providers,” Wein said. “It’s really special to be able to help the members of our communities who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford dental care.”

After graduation, he will work as a hygienist for a family dentistry clinic near his home in Midlothian. Like himself, the clinic is known for ethical and patient-centered care.

“When I shadowed the clinic, it was clear that they really look out for their patients,” Wein said. “It was a place that I could see myself at.”