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Dental Hygiene and Head Start Team Up To Provide Screenings

    by Emilie Jenson, Public Information Office
    Posted on 3/7/2024

First year dental hygiene students had the opportunity recently to see some of their first real patients.

In conjunction with Children’s Dental Health Month, around 100 preschool aged students from YOUR Inc. Head Start visited the dental hygiene clinic on the Iowa Central campus throughout February.

The first-year hygiene students provided screenings to check for any major dental issues, along with fluoride varnishes and educated the children on good dental hygiene habits and cavity prevention.

According to Renee Piper, Dental Hygiene program coordinator, it was the first time many of the Head Start students had been seen in a dental clinic setting.

“We work in conjunction with the county’s I-SMILE coordinators to bring the Head Start kids in,” said Piper. “They are seen three times a year for fluoride, and we get to do the treatments during Children’s Dental Health Month, that way they can receive a screening and be checked for any urgent dental needs and if necessary, can be referred on to a dentist.”

Piper said the clinic visit helped identify significant dental needs in 36 children who received referrals.

“We saw kids with cavities, a few cases of decay and a broken tooth,” said dental hygiene student Chloe Jones. “It was interesting seeing an underserved population.”

Along with screenings for the children, the Head Start clinic days served as a learning experience for the students to practice their skills on pediatric patients.

“It was a new experience for us, we hadn’t seen kids in the clinic yet,” said Deni McDaniel, a first-year student who also had the opportunity to play Tooth Fairy. “We had worked on each other and on sim models in the clinic, but this was the first time really interacting with and helping kids.”

The kids enjoyed the experience as much as the dental hygiene students enjoyed learning, first year student Savanna Wheeler said.

“It acclimated them to a dental clinic setting,” said Wheeler. “They loved the lights and going for a ‘ride’ in the chair. When they were done, they got their goody bags and a coloring book.”

Jones also spent some time as the Tooth Fairy during the clinics.

“It added to the magical factor for them,” said Jones. “We handed out stickers and talked to them about taking care of their teeth. When they heard it from the Tooth Fairy perspective, they really listened.”

A few of the Head Start students even challenged the Tooth Fairy a little.

“They had some challenging questions that really put us on the spot to answer like ‘why do some kids get money, but you bring my friend candy,’” said McDaniel. “The kids were fun to work with and overall, I think we all enjoyed making them feel special.”

For more information on the Iowa Central Dental Hygiene Program and clinics visit





Dental Hygiene and Head Start Team Up To Provide Screenings

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