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Preventive dentistry offered to elementary school students (12-30-99)

For many students at a San Antonio elementary school, their first experience in a dentistís chair is part of an innovative program created by The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

The School-Based Preventive Dentistry Program at Coronado Elementary School is a collaboration among the Department of Community Dentistry, the Area Health Education Center and the Edgewood Independent School District. Since 1987, more than 5,000 elementary students have received preventive dentistry services.

Project organizer Martha X. Baez, R.D.H., M.P.H., assistant professor of community dentistry, takes students from the Dental School on a weekly basis. While dental students receive invaluable experience, the children receive instruction on proper dental hygiene and preventive dentistry procedures.

Each fall, Baez takes third-year dental students to perform placement of dental sealants on second-graders, whose first permanent molars have come in. To reinforce good habits, the dental students review oral hygiene techniques with the children before beginning the procedure. The sealant is a thin plastic coating placed on the pits and grooves of the chewing surface of the back teeth in an effort to prevent decay.

During the spring, Baez takes freshman dental students who provide oral hygiene instruction and weekly fluoride mouth rinses for students of all grade levels. The mouth rinses are intended to prevent cavities and may be the only fluoride treatments for these children, she said.

In 1992, dental students working at Coronado Elementary decided that children at other schools could benefit from a similar program.

Working with Elaine Neenan, D.D.S., associate dean for external affairs in the Dental School, the students created the Miles for Smiles organization, which raises funds through an annual run to pay for fluoride mouth rinse supplies in San Antonio and South Texas schools.

More than 12,200 students in seven districts have benefited from the outgrowth of the Coronado Elementary School program.

Contact: Will Sansom