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Student hygienists offer painless cavity prevention

It was an offer that was enamel-hard to resist — no pain and no cost. Students at the Dundalk campus of the Community College of Baltimore County‘s dental hygiene program offered children and teens dental examinations, fluoride treatments and protective coatings for permanent molars.

Patients spend a half-hour — some a little longer — in a chair as a second-year student hygienist goes to work. The students scour away plaque and apply sealants to pitted and lined teeth that may be vulnerable to a cavity.

By the end of the session the junior patients left the dental program with scrubbed bicuspids and a mouthful of coatings that promise to keep decay at bay.

“We feel strongly about providing services to prevent dental disease,” said Tonya Jeffries-Beatty, who directs the college’s dental hygiene program. “The sealants we apply are not foolproof, but they help prevent cavities.”

She and her staff defined a sealant as a thin white hard plastic coating placed in the grooves of the biting surfaces of teeth. The sealant bonds and creates a protective surface shield.

Wafia Issa brought her two sons, Omar, a student at Dumbarton Middle School, and Sherif, a Lutherville Timonium Elementary pupil. She stood at their side as each had a half-hour treatment. After both boys spent their time in the chair, the diagnosis came out: No cavities.

“One of my family members heard about the offer, and I signed them up,” said Issa, who is from Egypt and now lives in Lutherville.

It was also a day for the Dundalk Community College students to get of glimpse of what a busy Saturday morning promises to be once they graduate from the school and take jobs in dental offices.

“I had one 12-year-old who needed 15 sealants on deep grooves and pits,” said Sarah Wheatley, a student who lives in Timonium.

Her classmate, Genna Gore, from Annapolis, attended a nervous 9-year-old and a courageous 3-year-old.

“Of course she had baby teeth, but she was awesome. I was impressed,” said Gore.

Jacqueline Arrias, who lives in Dundalk, brought her son, Joshua, for a cleaning and treatment. She found out about the free service from a flyer distributed in her neighborhood. They were helped along with translations by a student in the dental program, Carla Lopez.

“We are here to help out,” said Lopez, who stood by the mother and child during his cleaning session.

Margaret Hinkle, one of the school’s instructors, who is a Rosedale resident, calmly advised all, “You don’t feel anything at all.”

The day proved to be totally tearless too.

After a morning supervising a long corridor of hygienists, Hinkle ended the session with a pep talk for her students: “We placed 136 sealants on 17 patients. And that’s a wrap on another sealant Saturday.”

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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