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UMSOD Helps Keep Kids' Teeth Healthy

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Written by Adam Zewe

More than 50 University of Maryland School of Dentistry (UMSOD) students, faculty and staff volunteered for the fifth annual Sealant Saturday on March 1. They provided free sealant treatments for nearly 80 children at the UMSOD Perryville clinic.

Dental sealants are thin, plastic coatings that are applied to the grooves on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth. Sealants keep germs and food particles from becoming stuck in these grooves, which helps prevent cavities from forming.

"It is important to start building good oral health habits early. Dental decay impedes nutrition, causes pain and can hinder self esteem and interfere with a student's concentration on school work," states Assistant Professor Marion Manski, RDH, MS, director of the school's dental hygiene program.

Dental and dental hygiene students collaborated to place sealants for the children, who were between the ages of 5 and 17. Working with kids can be challenging, since they are sometimes shy or fearful in the dental chair, states Katelynn Poulin, RDH '14. "You really have to build a relationship with kids you are treating. It is all about trust and comfort," she remarks.

The event was a wonderful opportunity for families in rural Cecil County, especially those who lack fluoridated water, says Ruthie Moretz, of Colora, Md., who brought her 7-year-old son, Trevor, to receive sealants. Dental sealants are not covered by her insurance plan. "Affordability is a big issue when it comes to dental care. I'm so grateful for this event because it will help keep Trevor's teeth healthy," Moretz says.

The volunteers, including members of the UMSOD student chapter of the American Association of Women Dentists, stayed busy throughout the four-hour outreach event. Students placed 346 sealants and also examined the children's teeth for decay. The supplies used to provide care during Sealant Saturday were donated by Benco Dental Company, Ultradent Products, Inc. and the Maryland Dental Hygienists' Association.

The program began at UMSOD in Baltimore in 2006 and moved to Perryville in 2010. UMSOD established the 26-chair Perryville clinic in 2009 to help meet the oral health care needs of underserved patients in Cecil County. For Clinical Instructor Leila Liberman, RDH, BS, who has organized the event since its inception, Sealant Saturday is the ultimate "teachable moment" for students. "I tell the students that this is about paying it forward. We have a responsibility to give back to others," she says.

Click the "play" button below to view a slideshow of Sealant Saturday photos.

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