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Sealant Day

Deidra Foret, director of Sealant Day, shows a fourth grade student the correct way to brush his teeth.  

Dental hygiene students ending their second year of training want all the clinical experience they can get before graduation. The schoolchildren who attend Cox Elementary have dental problems but not the means to access dental care. Some might call this meeting of needs a perfect match. It has led to an annual outreach event called “Sealant Day,” directed by Diedra B. Foret, RDH, MEd, CHES, who is also the senior clinic supervisor of the Division of Dental Hygiene.

Dr. Toby Cheramie prepares to examine Shanice Dixon.

According to Dr. Scott Steckler, the school’s principal, the parents of the children are workers paid by the hour and cannot afford to miss even one hour of work. “They want the best for their children but struggle constantly to do basic things like pay the rent,” he said. “After three years of working with the dental school on this event, I can tell you the parents really appreciate this help for their children. Many have seen a dentist only once or twice in their lives.”

Dental hygiene students Ashley Dumas and Lisa Harrington-Armstrong with Latham Mims.

The 50 schoolchildren are in the fourth grade. They were chosen on the basis of acute need, the presence of their permanent teeth and the fact that they did not have a dentist.The money to pay for the bus that transports the children to the dental school is paid for by the children themselves through a concession at the school that sells items such as pencils, erasers, ice cream and yogurt.

Dental hygiene students Meredith Gautrau and Sarah Volentine enjoy taking care of Joshua Pagan.

Each child received a free dental screening and, when appropriate, fluoride treatments and sealants. The services were provided by a team of 30 dental hygiene students plus ten dentists and dental students.

Tooth decay is the single most common and preventable childhood disease. Each year, 1.6 million days of school are missed because of dental problems. Eighty percent of all children in the United States have cavities.

Dental assistant Ann Kay demonstrates flossing to Lenika Walker.

“We actively encourage community outreach among our students, faculty, and staff,” said Foret. “'Sealant Day' is one example of the many ways we give back to the people of the New Orleans area. While the services we provide may seem like small gestures on our part, we know that it may mean worlds to the children and their families. That gives us a reason to smile.”

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Last Update 5/2010