Nov. 14, 2017 | “Open wide and show me your pretty teeth,” was a familiar refrain as UAMS’ dental residents and dental hygiene students coaxed Head Start pupils to open their mouths during recent oral health screenings.
The screenings, which took place at various UAMS Head Start locations during October, were designed to identify cavities the children might have and apply a fluoride treatment to their teeth to prevent any further decay. The work was funded by a grant from Delta Dental of Arkansas Foundation.
More than 80 children were treated at the 15 Head Start centers in Pulaski County by a team of 25 dental hygiene students, two hygienists, three dentists and six dental residents.
“It is important to screen children at a young age because it helps us identify decay, poor oral hygiene or any other dental problems,” said Ashley McMillan, D.M.D., assistant director of the Oral Health Clinic and General Practice Residency Program, and an assistant professor in the Center for Dental Education.
“Tooth pain is one of the leading causes of missed school, and too often parents aren’t properly educated in how to take care of their children’s teeth,” she added.
On Oct. 26, six dental hygiene students and three dental residents joined McMillan and Jennifer Stane, an instructor in the College of Health Profession’s Department of Dental Hygiene, at the Davis Head Start facility on Colonel Glenn Road.
There the group crowded into a conference room, where they divided up into four teams and started seeing their pint-sized patients. At first, some of the children were reluctant participants. But gradually, the residents and students won the children over with smiles and antics that made going to the dentist less scary and more fun. By the end, some of the children were fans of the bubblegum-flavored vitamins (aka fluoride) on their teeth, while others gave the flavor an emphatic two thumbs down.
The residents examined the children’s teeth and identified spots of decay, said Stane, adding that follow-up care was prioritized by the severity of the decay. Appointments had already been set aside at the 12th Street Health and Wellness Center for the most serious cases, she said.
“One of the great things about these screenings is that the oral health team automatically makes follow-up appointments at 12th Street for those children who need to have cavities filled or other problems addressed,” said Kathy Bubin, a health and disabilities specialist for Early Head Start. “It makes it so much easier for the parents.”
The Head Start screenings provided the dental hygiene students and dental residents with a valuable exposure to a pediatric patients, said McMillan and Stane.
“Working with children is a completely different ballgame from working with adults,” McMillan said. “Knowing how to make kids comfortable in the dentist chair is a valuable skill for dentists and dental hygienists to have.”