Students at the UConn School of Dental Medicine recently provided oral hygiene education to elementary school students during an after-school program at Maria Sanchez Elementary School in Hartford.
Nathalia Hernandez, a second-year student who led team of 14 dental students, believes that oral health education is the first step in achieving a proper hygiene routine, especially for children.
“For this population,” Hernandez says, “it can be difficult to recognize the importance of factors like brushing and flossing, minimizing sugar, and drinking more water and their role in dental hygiene. By conducting programs like these, it can serve as a reminder to brush their teeth at night at home which can make a difference in diseases like early childhood caries.”
The students gave presentations and conducted experiments to help the young students understand the importance of brushing teeth. To show how toothpaste can protect teeth from acidic substances, the dental students covered white chalk with toothpaste and placed the chalk in vinegar to show how the chalk dissolves less with toothpaste present.
“These are excellent opportunities for students to be in the community providing prevention education and being role models for the younger students to learn about oral health care and also about how to be a dentist,” said Dr. Sarita Arteaga, associate dean for students at the School of Dental Medicine.
The UConn students also facilitated a hands-on tooth brushing and flossing simulation, allowing the children to practice on a set of false teeth.
“I am passionate because programs like these are part of a large effort of preventative steps that can be taken at school or at home to give children their best prognosis in their oral health,” Hernandez continued.
The event was made possible with the support of the Student National Dental Association/Hispanic Student Dental Association (SNDA/HSDA), the Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA), and the Hispanic Health Council.