Dental students provide screenings for EISD second-graders
More than 800 second-graders from Edgewood Independent School District (EISD) are smiling a little brighter after receiving dental screenings and sealants from dental students at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.
Students from 10 elementary schools rode buses to the UT Health Science Center on Feb. 1 ― National Give Kids A Smile Day ― and Feb. 8 for the screenings. February is National Children's Dental Health Month.
The sealant clinic is an opportunity for dental students to practice their skills and to provide community service to an underserved part of the community.
Children and their families learn about oral health
“We make this a fun experience for the kids,” Gary Guest, D.D.S., coordinator of the Dental Sealants program and assistant dean for predoctoral clinics, said. “Our third- and fourth- year dental students look over the children’s teeth. They show them how to brush and floss and then they apply dental sealants to the children’s molars, the teeth in the back that are most prone to cavities,” he said.
“One of our major goals with this program is educating the children and their families about the importance of taking care of their teeth. When they leave, the children get a little bag with a toothbrush, a tube of toothpaste and a coloring book about oral hygiene to take home. They are all smiling when they leave,” he said.
“The schools make sure that the children’s parents get a report about what was done at the screening and whether there are any cavities or other urgent-care matters that should be attended to,” Dr. Guest added. Children who need follow-up care are referred to the Ricardo Salinas Clinic, the Dental School or to another affiliated free or low-cost dental clinic.
More than 350 dental students, 45 supervising dental faculty and 156 dental chairs from the Health Science Center Dental School are used to conduct the clinic.
Youngsters receive exposure to higher education
Mickey Uriegas, a playful young basketball player, managed to smile after his check-up with dental students Keisha Aurentz and David Cuevas. He was a little nervous when he arrived because on a previous visit to the Dental School he had to have a number of teeth pulled because of some cavities. “I was very pleased with the way they treated him,” said his mother, Beatrice Uriegas, who came along as a chaperone. “They were very gentle.”
“It is very important that the children have good dental health because it affects their learning if they have a toothache,” explained Julie Garcia, Edgewood Independent School District director of health services. “It gives them exposure to coming to the dentist and some children have never been to the dentist before,” she said. “But it also is good for them because they have exposure to a university and coming here might even influence them to become a dentist someday.”
Dental students learn about community health
Melissa Nix, a fourth-year dental student and president of the 2008 Dental School Class noted that helping with the sealant clinics for three years has helped her appreciate the need for dentists in underserved and underprivileged areas. “I come from a little town in Northeast Texas called Hughes Springs. There are many small towns and other rural areas of Texas that are in desperate need of a dentist to help their communities,” she said. “They don’t have the providers they need to help them with their oral health.”
This is the seventh year the Edgewood children have come to the Health Science Center for exams, sealants and referrals for those needing follow-up care, thanks to the partnership of Methodist Healthcare Ministries, which underwrites the cost of materials and transportation for the children. However, this is the 24th year Health Science Center dental students have done a portion of their preventive dentistry clinical training with students in the EISD.
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