Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

October 24, 2011

Wide-open opportunity

UK dental students clean teeth, perform screenings at Crabbe

ASHLAND — Crabbe Elementary School pupils opened wide Monday.

Students from the University of Kentucky’s College of Dentistry transformed the school cafeteria into a clinic Monday and did screenings and tooth cleanings.

The first-year students, who were to return today for more screenings and cleanings, are part of an outreach that targets rural Kentucky schools where children don’t always get the dental care they need.

The program selects four schools each October; the selections are based primarily on the percentage of children eligible for free or reduced-price meals.

More than 90 percent of Crabbe’s pupils are eligible this year, Principal Brad Greene said.

The portable clinic came in a truck with chairs, lights, instruments and other dental equipment.

The program serves a twofold purpose for the dental students, said Judy Skelton, an associate professor and director of dental outreach at UK.  “It’s a combination of experience in rural Kentucky and an education in working with children,” she said.

For some of the dental students it is their first experience in working with children, she said. The students are accompanied by professors who perform the actual screenings. The students do the cleaning and other preventive work.

If screening reveals cavities or other problems, parents are notified so they can schedule appointments with their family dentist. Then the students clean and seal the teeth and treat them with fluoride. The sealant is a resin that literally coats the biting edges of the teeth to keep food particles out, Skelton said.

The students brush it on like paint and then use a bright light to cure and harden it.

The fluoride works to prevent cavities on the smooth surfaces of teeth.

“The sealants and fluoride are the two best ways to prevent cavities,” said one of the students, Rick Bletzacker of Columbus, Ohio. “Every dollar spent on fluoride and sealing will save an average of $38 on dental work later on.” 

The school clinic is good professional experience, he said, because it gives him a chance to work with patients who have both baby teeth and permanent teeth.

“A lot of kids here don’t have dental coverage,” Greene said. “When they asked us last year if they could come we just jumped on the chance.”

The children left the clinic with two toothbrushes, one of them the old-fashioned kind and the other a battery-operated spinning brush, which cleans more effectively.

MIKE JAMES can be reached at mjames@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2652.

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