Saturday, April 20, 2013

Dental program's free service helps local children

     ORLANDO — Helping to “Give Kids A Smile” and improve their oral health at no cost is a service provided by dental hygiene students from Valencia College and Orlando Vo-Tech.

     “The parents are always just very grateful for their child getting their teeth sealed to prevent decay,” said professor Pamela Sandy, Dental Hygiene program chair at Valencia College since 2005. “There are some sad stories with small children around three years old having baby teeth that are all decayed and it can set them up from problems in the future if gone untreated.”

     “Give Kids A Smile” is focused around helping children in the Central Florida community with free dental cleanings and tooth sealants while creating a positive environment designed to help encourage future dental visits. This event has been ongoing for the past two years at the Allied Health Services (AHS) building on Valencia’s West Campus, and is held four times a year with two clinics during the fall and spring semester.

     Our mouths can be an early warning system for the rest of your body and problems there can lead to systemic disease elsewhere. It has been well documented that diseases as well as bacteria that we find in the oral environment can spread to other parts of the body, and it can lead to heart disease, premature birth in women that are pregnant, among other health problems.

     One of the supervisors for this event was Denise Murphy, who has worked in this field for 35 years and is a certified dental assistant, nationally certified in dental practice management, and preventative dental and restorative dental assisting.

     “Today’s service that we’re providing for the community gives the dental assisting students from Orlando Vo-Tech the opportunity to join the dental hygiene students from Valencia College in a community service of sealants, fluoride, and oral hygiene instruction," said Murphy. “So it reinforces the learning experience that our students have, as well as partnering with the hygiene students to see how they deliver care, also the opportunity to work in a clinic environment and give back to the community by providing a wonderful service.”

     Students from Valencia and Orlando Vo-Tech alternated between teeth cleaning and applying sealants to children at this event that were old enough to get them. They also worked to establish a personal connection with their young patients to make them feel at ease with getting their teeth treated.

     “It’s been an amazing experience, just being able to work with the kids and make a difference in the community,” said Valencia dental hygiene student Meg Dennen.

     Word about this event is spread through fliers sent out to the head of the Orange, Seminole, and Osceola Counties public school system, and local food banks like Second Harvest and the Central Florida Compassion Center. At the schools they typically target school nurses and teachers to distribute the information to the students and parents. All this work is 100 percent free and done by around 50 volunteers.

     Spring Meeks, a parent who brought her four-year-old son Jacob Meeks into the clinic said “I see the staff and students all working together to get our children’s teeth clean, that’s just wonderful.”

By James Tutten

(All photos by James Tutten)


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