TWU Dental Hygiene Clinic gives Little Elm ISD students a reason to smile
April 15, 2021 - DENTON - A healthy and bright smile can instill confidence and pride, as 26 Little Elm ISD students discovered during TWU’s Giving Kids a Smile Day, held on April 10. During the event, the TWU Dental Hygiene Clinic provided the students, ranging from 4 to 17 years old, free preventative services, including x-rays, dental exams, cleanings, sealants and Silver Diamine Fluoride, as needed. The students also received oral hygiene instruction and nutritional guidance.
The entire TWU dental hygiene senior class, comprised of 26 students, along with six faculty and staff members and two dentists, volunteered their time for the event. Participants noted the outreach effort reflects on the profession’s mission of providing quality care to everyone.
“Being a dental hygienist includes advocating for those that face barriers that prevent them from receiving dental care and oral health education,” said dental hygiene student Crystal Rebollero, who organized the event. “We aim to address these barriers by creating and implementing outreach programs that increase oral health literacy through education and, if the situation allows, provide individualized treatments within our scope of practice for those otherwise unable to access dental care. We believe everyone should have the opportunity to obtain optimal oral health.”
Little Elm ISD initially contacted Charlene Dickinson, Dental Hygiene Program director, and asked if TWU could provide services for some of their indigent/homeless children with significant needs and no access to oral health services.
“Our conversation touched my heart,” said Dickinson. “I teach our Community Oral Health Practicum course, where in the first weeks of class, the students learn about service learning and learning experientially. One assignment in this course is to plan a community outreach event, so I thought this would be the perfect opportunity for both our students and the Little Elm ISD students.”
Rebollero volunteered to plan and organize the event and recruited several of her classmates to help. They spent hours contacting parents, gathering patient information and informed consent, speaking to the Little Elm’s administration and recruiting TWU dentists and clinical faculty to volunteer. They also designed forms, created an oral health presentation and coordinated student clinician schedules for treatment, as well as analyzed the demographics of each child with Dickinson.
The students also were able to secure donations from local dental distributors, including Colgate, Syneos Health, and Benco Dental, which provided toothbrushes, toothpaste, PPE and dental unit barriers. The Silver Diamine Fluoride used was purchased through a research grant that Honors Scholar student Blair Baumann attained as part of her Honors Scholar Project.
Though it was hard work, for Rebollero, helping the Little Elm ISD students made it all worthwhile.
“This project began as an opportunity to complete a requirement for our program, but it became so much more to everyone involved,” she said. “We feel that we made a difference in these children’s lives, many of whom had never stepped foot in a dental office. We hope that this experience made a positive impact on their oral health and their perception of the dental profession. We wanted them to walk away with a refreshed outlook on the importance of actively participating in taking care of their oral health. Most importantly, we wanted them to feel that they had not been forgotten or overlooked. Every child matters.”
Dickinson agreed, and believes the TWU students will become better dental hygienists because of this experience.
“A service-learning project such as this one is more valuable for student learning than any lecture assignment or final exam,” she said. “You cannot give back to the communities you serve or learn empathy from a written project. This event was a very valuable learning activity that I do not think they will ever forget.”
Dickinson also believes the event had a significant impact on the Little Elm ISD students and their parents.
“Hopefully, this experience changed the lives of those we served and raised awareness of the importance of oral health. And maybe we inspired future dental professionals as well.”
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Page last updated 2:04 PM, April 30, 2021