Shaping positive oral health habits early

School of Dentistry students host fair at elementary school

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

West Virginia University School of Dentistry students eagerly share oral hygiene information as fast as they are learning it. 

Dental hygiene students worked with elementary school students on at oral health expo.As part of Children’s Dental Health Month in February, the School of Dentistry Office of Dental Recruitment/Admissions hosted an oral health fair at North Elementary School in Monongalia County.

Dr. Shelia Price, associate dean for the dental school’s admissions office, took a team of six dental and dental hygiene students to work with nearly 100 second grade boys and girls on everything it takes to maintain a healthy mouth and smile.

The representatives of the School of Dentistry included Samantha Farley, senior dental hygiene student who played the tooth fairy, Grace Garcia, 4th-year dental student, Kristen Hanlan, senior dental hygiene student, Sarah Kyle, senior dental hygiene student, Julia Miller, senior dental hygiene student and Rohit Nezhad, a 4th-year dental student.

Each student led mini workshops at one of six stations for the youngsters to rotate through for lessons. 

“As an added bonus, youngsters learned about teamwork-- an essential aspect of dentistry-- as they gleefully interacted with both dental and dental hygiene students throughout the expo,” Price conveyed.

Outreach is a large part of the dental hygiene and dental programs. Between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017, dental and dental hygiene students reported at least 1,691 community service activities impacting 3,539 West Virginians. 

“This group of dental and dental hygiene students displayed compassion, teamwork, and altruism,” expressed Amy Funk, Department of Dental Hygiene chair. “I consider these characteristics the most important qualities we can install in the future generations.”

While the American Dental Association recommends every child see a dentist by the time they are a year old, School of Dentistry representatives used the opportunity to explain to elementary schoolers what to expect if they are visiting a dentist for the first time. 

To explain the importance of a dental staff’s personal protective equipment, the second grade students had the opportunity to gown-up much like they would see their dentist and hygienist do at a clinic. 

Part of the national discussion on childhood nutrition often revolves around obesity rates.  But, School of Dentistry students use outreach efforts like the North Elementary oral health fair to explain the how sugary drinks and poor diet choices can also lead to tooth decay and other problems.

The lessons came to life as the elementary school children played a game requiring them to toss bean-bag shaped fruits and veggies into a "happy" mouth.

An additional station for North students focused solely on tooth brushing.  A hands-on station gave the young students the opportunity to brush Spot's teeth (a dog puppet) and practice on large mouth models.  Brushing is recommended twice a day and two minutes at a time.  That is the key message School of Dentistry students deliver consistently.

No oral health fair would be complete without impressing the importance of flossing to keep a healthy smile. To make the message stick, children who visited the flossing workstation lined up shoulder to shoulder pretending to be teeth while maneuvering a rope among each tooth to act as floss.

In groups of 16 to18, youngsters participated in six interactive stations on a rotating basis.
The expo occurred on the eve of Valentine's Day - making it particularly timely.

Students were treated to oral health bags containing floss, toothbrushes, toothpaste, dental health-themed coloring sheets, and oral health information flyers.