Preston Ivy is a dental hygiene student in the University of Mississippi Medical Center School of Dentistry.
Preston Ivy is a dental hygiene student in the University of Mississippi Medical Center School of Dentistry.
Main Content

#2024UMMCGrad: Preston Ivy champions oral health at home and abroad

Published on Monday, May 13, 2024

By: Rachel Vanderford,

Photos By: Jay Ferchaud/ UMMC Communications

As the only male in his dental hygiene class, Preston Ivy has never been afraid to immerse himself in every opportunity to be involved.  
From providing oral health education to local middle-schoolers, to cleaning teeth in countries all over the world, to recruiting for the University of Mississippi Medical Center School of Dentistry, he is dedicated to dental health and education. It wasn’t always his dream to pursue dental hygiene, however. Ivy, who grew up surrounded by and caring for animals, always imagined he would have a career as a veterinarian.  
“My first job was a vet tech and kennel assistant in my hometown, Magee. I worked there for years and even when I moved away to college, I worked at a vet clinic there,” he said. “But as I kept that up, I realized I wouldn’t be able to put animals ‘to sleep.’ One of my jobs working at vet clinics was to perform teeth cleanings, and I realized I kind of enjoyed doing that.  
“Having had two sets of braces myself, I realized I’ve spent a good deal of time in a dental clinic, and I really loved my general dentist and orthodontist. So, I decided to shift gears and think about dentistry.” 
In his senior year of high school, with his new career goal in mind, he joined a mission trip to Honduras. There, for a week, he shadowed dentists as they performed tooth extractions for locals in the remote village of San Nicolas. For the next few years, he kept his sights set on pursuing dentistry. 

Ivy performs cleanings for children during a dental mission trip to Togo, Africa.
Ivy performs cleanings for children during a dental mission trip to Togo, Africa.

However, as he graduated from Copiah Lincoln Community College during the COVID-19 pandemic, everything had gone virtual. And lacking a few credits for dental school, he opted to apply to the dental hygiene program at the School of Dentistry.  
“I have really enjoyed being in hygiene school,” he said. “But working with the dental students and learning the ins and outs of dentistry solidified for me that I still want to pursue dental school. At the end of the day, I enjoy being around people and building relationships. And it feels great to be able to help someone.” 
As one of two dental hygiene ambassadors for the School of Dentistry, Ivy has been involved in hosting high school students for career fairs, interviews and school preview days as well as overseeing S.M.I.L.E. U., a week-long summer program for middle school students aimed at bringing awareness and interest in the field of dentistry to under-represented groups.  

“I like being involved and try to provide support wherever I can,” he said. “I started helping out at Jackson Free Clinic in my junior year, making phone calls to patients, and now that I’m a senior, I get to provide cleanings.” 
Throughout the two years it takes to complete the dental hygiene program, Ivy has participated in several outreach trips, providing cleanings for people from rural Mississippi to rural Africa.  
Last summer, Ivy and his classmates went to Cary Christian Center in Rolling Fork for a summer camp called the "Dental Olympics,” where kids enjoyed games and activities alongside dental cleanings. Ivy was also part of the care crew for Team Smile event in West Point and provided cleanings in Louise at the community free clinic. 

Most recently, Ivy visited Togo, Africa on a dental mission trip with a few students from the school.  
“One of the former clinic directors, Dr. Cynthia Senior–now the Education QI and Assessment Director in Academic Affairs–invited dental and dental hygiene students as well as faculty to go on a mission trip over spring break,” he said. “Five of my classmates, a fourth-year dental student, one of my teachers and I went with Dr. Senior. It was a great trip. In all, we were able to treat over 320 patients.” 
“The mission trip to Togo, Africa is not for the faint of heart,” said Senior. “You are working in extreme heat but with the most loving individuals.  We worked long, hard days, over eight hours a day, in temperatures exceeding 112 degrees.  Preston worked hard and enjoyed the opportunity to provide care for the locals.  As a team, we provided oral hygiene instructions, dental cleanings, fluoride varnish application, simple extractions, and fillings to the locals within several villages.” 
Following graduation, Ivy said he is looking for part-time employment as a dental hygienist while he completes the necessary classes to apply to dental school.