February 2, 2001
Volume XXXIV, No. 5

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Faculty, students reach out to improve oral health

As you dive into the chocolate for Valentine's Day, keep in mind that February is National Children's Dental Health Month.

During the month, faculty and students are conducting several community activities for young children as well as infants and parents.

A group of dental hygiene students will visit Timberwilde Elementary School on the Northwest Side, where students will talk to a group of 10- and 11-year-old special needs students about brushing and flossing, fluoride and nutrition. They also will distribute free toothbrushes.

Dental hygiene students are planning three other projects during the month at the Healy Murphy Center, Avance and the Frank Tejeda Academy, where they will educate teen parents-to-be both moms and dads about oral hygiene care for their children. Baby bottle caries, nutrition and daily brushing will be emphasized.

"The Health Science Center usually gets calls from schools for speakers during February, and faculty and students will be fielding those requests as well," said Kathy Geurink, clinical associate professor in dental hygiene.

For the first time this year, a sealant program is being sponsored by Methodist Healthcare Ministries to provide sealants to children from local schools. Partners in this program include the Health Science Center, local community clinics, the San Antonio District Dental Society, the San Antonio Dental Hygienists' Association and the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District.

Scheduled activities include free sealant placements for elementary school children at community clinics such as the Ella Austin Community Center, the South Park Medical Care Center, the Wesley Clinic, El Centro del Barrio and the Barrio Comprehensive Family Health Care Center.

"While progress has been made in reducing oral diseases, in some populations severe problems still exist," said Geurink, who has worked and taught in public health, observing community dental needs for about 30 years.

"I don't see how some children can sit in class with the oral problems they have," she commented. "The recent fluoride vote will help some of these conditions, but the children will continue to need preventive measures and good oral hygiene habits to keep problems from occurring."