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Practicums for Hygiene

October 13, 2011
Hygiene student with patient

Previous year hygiene student working with a patient on oral health

During the summer months for senior hygiene students, we are required to plan and organize a practicum outreach project.  My partner Mona and I worked with the Washtenaw Public Health Department for our Practicum.  The Washtenaw Public Health Department recently started a PA 161 fluoride varnish program for children in Head Start.  The PA 161 targets children in the Great Start Readiness Program in Washtenaw County.  The children in this program are classified as coming from low-income households.  The PA 161 consists of going to 14 different schools in Washtenaw County and providing an oral health screening and fluoride varnish to the children.  Once the oral health screenings are completed, Mona and I followed-up with the parents of children who were referred for dental care.  Parent also received dental insurance information, if they did not have dental insurance for their child.
Overall, I enjoyed my practicum experience.  During the past few months, I have learned a lot about oral health care outside of the classroom.  Working with this project has provided me with the chance to work with pediatric patients, understand more about Medicaid, and assess the need for dental programs in schools.
Medicaid is a common insurance for many patients; however, it is not a common insurance for many dental offices.  It is very hard to find offices that participate with Medicaid.  The end result is poor oral health for many patients.  Fortunately, working with Kelly Stupple, the Director of Great Start Smiles Fluoride Varnish Program, we were able to place all of our referred patients in offices that participated with Medicaid or charged extremely low fees for services.  Many of the children who we screened that were referred for treatment had never been to the dentist.  However, their parents had Medicaid but did not know of a dental office that participated with Medicaid. Those types of circumstances are frustrating, but in the end we were able to help the parents find an office to treat their child.
Participating in this project helped me to realize there is a need for more dental screening programs in schools.  I can only imagine the number of children who cannot concentrate in class or sleep at night because of a tooth ache.  As an oral health care provider, I know that the infection will not stop in the oral cavity, but spread throughout the body.  It’s important that we provide more avenues for low-income patients to receive oral health care.

Elizabeth Easter is a DH4 dental hygiene student, originally from Detroit, MI.  She obtained her B.S. degree in Biology from Howard University in 2007.  Elizabeth has a passion for community development, and plans to work in community dentistry in the future.

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