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Pediatric Dental Students Show and Tell Oral Health to 'Smile Kids'

Flashing a big smile of his own at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry's latest "Give the Kids a Smile" day, Vineet Dhar, BDS, MDS, PhD, associate professor, said the dentistry can sometimes seem to be a small part of educating pediatric dental students.

The Smile day at the School's National Dental Museum in Baltimore was for 70 first-grade schoolchildren from nearby James McHenry Elementary School. They were greeted and hosted by 20 of the School of Dentistry's pediatric dentistry students, eager to practice that other part of their curriculum, childhood psychology.

Half of the dental students sat or knelt with groups of first-graders in front of colorful, simple exhibits about brushing, tooth anatomy, saliva, and dozens of other oral health subjects.

The other half of the pediatric students, wearing masks and rubber gloves, sat across from the children, one at a time, for an oral examination and lots of healthy "tooth talk."

"The first thing they [the pediatric classes] teach us is that you have to get down to their level, look the kids in the eye," said Natalie Masiuk, third-year pediatric dental student. Masiuk in her powder blue scrubs was surrounded by seven children at a floor-level tobacco exhibit. "Do you know what tobacco is? Lots of people don't know that tobacco is bad for your teeth," Masiuk said as she pointed to a large poster of stained teeth. "This is what your teeth will look like if you smoke," she said, evoking a round of "eews" and "yuks."

The American Dental Association (ADA) began the Give Kids a Smile program in 2003 as a way for ADA members to join with others in the community to provide dental services to underserved children. Each year, approximately 450,000 children benefit from more than 1,500 events. Each year, the UM School of Dentistry invites nearby elementary school children with their teachers and some parents to a Smile day.

Dhar watched as his students examined the children. "This introduces the students to community service and introduces the kids to good hygienic practices." He said it was all about providing impressions and retaining, but not of the dental kind. "Helping the kids develop appropriate behavior and attitude about the dentist makes an impression in their minds at this age that they can retain with reinforcing by the teachers here and parents," said Dhar.

Meanwhile, another group of five children were gathered around third-year pediatric dentistry student Jennifer Drosser, kneeling at the brush and floss exhibit. Primed by her training to expect to hear anything from children, Drosser began, "Does anyone here floss?" "Yea, it made my tooth go out," a child said, in all seriousness. "Well, it must have been a baby tooth," Drosser responded, quickly turning to the Tootharama exhibit on tooth anatomy. She talked the children through the exhibit on the development of human teeth from birth to 35 years old.



The children drifted off to the next exhibit, prompting Drosser to say, "We are taught how to talk with them. Sugar bugs are the bacteria that decay teeth. Our mask is an umbrella. We start with terms they understand. And, we have to keep in mind a lot of the issue is that kids are afraid of pain."

During the Give the Kids a Smile visit, the children learned dozens of oral health tidbits that they might retain, such as how many times a day to brush, how much saliva a person makes day (600 milliliters), that braces can be cool, what a mouth full of cavities looks like, or what bad breath or good breath smell like (simulated in a flip top box exhibit).

Part of the pediatric students' education is preparatory training with children by practice rotations in Maryland pediatric dental offices and community clinics. But the Give the Kids a Smile day is a favorite with the students, says Jessica Lee (pictured), who is due to receive her pediatric DDS degree next month, which has earned her a residency in the prestigious Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "I've learned a lot about working with a community and kids by being part of this Give the Kids a Smile day all my four years in dental school," she said. "The importance of interacting with the community has been emphasized and the reason we do it."

In addition to educating new pediatric dentists, the School's Department of Pediatric Dentistry oversees a Pediatric Dental Fellowship program that provides direct clinical oral health care services to underserved Maryland children. The program is a partnership with the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene's Office of Oral Health, local health departments, and federally qualified health centers throughout Maryland. The objective of the program is to place graduates of U.S. pediatric dental residency programs into public safety-net clinics to provide clinical oral health care services to needy children, especially those eligible for Medicaid.
Posting Date: 04/11/2013
Contact Name: Steve Berberich
Contact Phone: 410-706-0023
Contact Email: sberb001@umaryland.edu