Students in Mary Bishop’s first-grade class at Ficquett Elementary School got a visit from Georgia Perimeter College Dental Hygiene students who taught them about proper tooth care, nutrition, plaque, the tools a dentist uses and the importance of a healthy mouth.
First-grader Caleb Wilson said he “learned how to brush my teeth and stuff. I also learned about what foods that are bad for my teeth.”
Wilson’s classmate Hunter Baxter said he learned the proper way to floss.
“You have to get in between your teeth, and you also have to take care of your gums,” Baxter said.
Georgia Perimeter students Tracey Mitts, Jenny Stoud and Carlos Silva visited Ficquett Elementary as part of a service-learning requirement for their Dental Hygiene studies.
In total, 27 GPC Dental Hygiene students provided oral health presentations to nine elementary schools throughout the metro area during Dental Hygiene Month (February). Ficquett was the only school selected in Newton County.
“To provide oral health education to a diversified group of elementary-school children, our students scheduled schools from across our region,” said GPC Dental Hygiene Instructor Pam Cushenan. “The point is to expand access to a greater number of cultural groups and reach those children who can benefit the most from dental hygiene education.”
This year is the first year of this expanded approach by GPC’s Dental Hygiene department, which is located on the Dunwoody Campus but is available to all GPC students.
Cushenan said her students did all the work, choosing the elementary schools they would present to and working out all the details with that school for the visits. Georgia Perimeter Dental Hygiene students traveled to the elementary schools in groups of threes.
“Tracey and I live in Covington, and my son attends Ficquett,” Stoud said. “I attend PTA meetings, and so I can see the diversity in this school. I saw the opportunity to have Newton County benefit from GPC’s Dental Hygiene program.”
Stoud said she took core courses on Newton Campus before focusing on her major.
“When I heard about GPC’s Dental Hygiene school’s excellent reputation, I knew it was a career program that I would be interested in,” she said.
As part of the sevice requirement, GPC students were asked to tailor their presentations to children. To warm up the students at Ficquett, the Dental Hygiene students had them roll dice and whatever number the first-graders rolled, was the number of cardboard adult teeth they got to place over a drawing of baby teeth until all 32 adult teeth covered the 20 baby teeth.
The elementary students also had the opportunity to brush and floss the teeth of several stuffed animals with oversized teeth.
“These presentations were more hands on,” Bishop said. “That’s good because children learn by doing. It’s also nice for them to see other people coming into our classroom.
“This will also help the students who are afraid of going to the dentist,” Bishop adds. “One student hasn’t had a cavity filled, and he said he didn’t want to go back to the dentist. Now that the students have learned more about the dentist’s tools and how they help keep their teeth strong, they will be less afraid.”
As part of GPC’s requirement, the presenters were graded and monitored by the elementary class teacher. The students were also required to evaluate each team member, and discussions will be carried back to the GPC classroom.
True to its service learning roots, these projects expose Dental Hygiene students to the many ways that they can impact community health through education, screenings and referrals, as well as the importance of giving back to their community, Cushenan said.
“It helps student dental hygienists translate what they learn in the classroom into good service for the general population,” she said. “My passion is to increase dental health opportunities for underserved and at-risk populations, so it makes my heart excited when we do these programs and events. If I can help to light a spark for community service in our students, they have the capacity to do this for the rest of their careers.”
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Georgia Perimeter College, the third largest institution of the University System of Georgia, serves more than 25,000 students through four campuses and several sites in metro Atlanta. For additional information, visit www.gpc.edu.