Armed with puppets, toothbrushes, sugar cubes, and information, students from Midwestern University's College of Dental Medicine-Illinois (CDMI) set out this spring to promote oral health at local elementary schools. The class of 130 first-year dental medicine students visited several different schools around the Chicagoland area to teach children good oral health behaviors and hygiene habits.
"Topics that we talked to the kids about included what are good and bad food choices for your teeth, how much sugar is in some common foods, and how to practice good oral hygiene by brushing their teeth twice daily," said Lauren Eichblatt, a first-year dental student.
The class visited seven different schools and provided programs for children ranging in age from preschool to 8th grade. "The part I enjoyed most about our visit to the elementary school was seeing the kids' interest and enthusiasm when participating in our presentations," said Adam Grant, a first-year dental student. "They went from happy to shocked as we showed them some of their favorite foods and how much sugar was in each of them, emphasizing sugar's role in oral health."
A typical session lasted 45 minutes and included interactive games and crafts along with information about oral health. Bi-lingual CDMI students had the opportunity to present lessons in Spanish and other students worked with special needs students and visually-impaired students. "I had the pleasure of working with different special needs students. The experience was so rewarding and it taught me that with a little creativity you can teach anyone how to improve their oral health," recalled dental medicine student, Megan Fasanella.
In addition to providing the community with useful information, the classroom visits helped the Midwestern dental students sharpen their communications skills which will be a valuable tool in their future careers. "The thing I learned from these presentations was how to effectively communicate the importance and procedures of oral health. As a dentist this will be one of our most important roles in our careers, and effective communication is everything," Mr. Grant said. "If we can get people to take better care of their mouths, then we are doing our jobs as dentists."