A second-grader from Edgewood Independent School District must have had a really good dental checkup on Feb. 1, “Give Kids a Smile Day.” Leaving the exam area, he danced to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” playing on one of the dental student’s phones. He did the robot, the smooth criminal lean and of course, the moonwalk, as dental students cheered him on.
He was one of about 250 Edgewood Independent School District second-graders who received preventive care from students in UT Health San Antonio’s School of Dentistry during a free clinic held in conjunction with National Children’s Dental Health Month.
Another 250 Edgewood second-graders are expected to receive the same dental care Feb. 8.
Second-year dental student Morgan Kirkland worked with Eliane Goncalves, a third-year student, to clean the child’s teeth, give him a fluoride treatment and place sealants on his molars. Kirkland said that tapping into a child’s interests can provide a teaching moment. “When he came in, he requested we show him a Michael Jackson movie on our phone. When we were teaching him how to brush his teeth we told him that if he brushes his teeth two times a day he will have beautiful teeth just like Michael Jackson.”
First-year dental student Katherine Bynum worked with fourth-year student Autumn Castillo in her first clinical experience at UT Dentistry, the School of Dentistry’s clinic. “In December we did a fluoride application at one of the elementary schools, but this is the first time we’ve seen kids here,” she said. “Before this, we hadn’t had a lot of experience working with patients. It’s nice to make this a positive experience for the kids and build a relationship with them,” she said.
“I think that using terms that children understand, like saying “sugar bugs” instead of “cavities” and that we’re using “shampoo and conditioner” on their teeth (instead of sealants and fluoride) makes it more enjoyable for them,” Bynum added.
Dental student Gina Khong noted the importance of the visit for children from an underserved area. “For a lot of these kids, it’s their first time seeing a dentist. It’s unfortunate that in a lot of areas (of town) there is limited access to care. So we want these kids to know the importance of their dental hygiene. Sometimes this is their first time knowing that they should brush their teeth.”
The children were given goodie bags to take home with a dental health coloring book, crayons, a toothbrush and toothpaste. At the end of their appointments, the dental students turned in a report of each child’s dental visit to be shared with parents, including any referrals for urgent care.
This is the 16th year that dental students, supervised by UT Health San Antonio faculty dentists, have provided preventive oral health care for Edgewood ISD students at no cost. A $15,000 grant from Methodist Healthcare Services of South Texas Inc. covered the dental supplies.
In February 2018, 572 children were evaluated and 67 were referred to dentists in community health clinics for follow-up urgent care. The sealants provided in 2018 had a value of $47,011 based on $53 per sealant and $182,419 in professional services to place them, based on average private dental practice fees.
More than 10,000 elementary school students have been served during the 16 years the preventive screenings have been offered.