First-year UK dental students give dental care to 388 elementary students in four counties through Seal Kentucky program

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First-year University of Kentucky dental students provided basic dental care and sealants to 388 students this fall at participating elementary schools through the Seal Kentucky program, according to a UK news release.

This community-based sealant program targets schools that have high participation in the free- or reduced-lunch programs, and few or no local dentists. This year the students visited Clay City, Sandy Hook, Ashland and Butler County.

The Seal Kentucky program provides first-year dental students with their first exposure to providing treatments to patients. Students work in teams of two to provide examinations, cleanings, fluoride treatments, sealants and brushing and flossing demonstrations for elementary students. The program also provides an opportunity for dental students to learn about portable community dental clinics, completing community assessments and expands their understanding of public health.

“Taking part in the seal trip was an awesome experience that I will always remember because those were my first real patients,” dental student Paige Higdon said in the release. “I learned that with enough effort you can encourage any kid to like dentistry and they leave with a smile on their face.”

Dental sealants, typically applied to the back teeth responsible for chewing food, help seal out plaque and food to reduce the risk of tooth decay in harder to clean areas of the mouth. The sealants will generally last for three to five years.

“The college’s overall mobile outreach program celebrates 25 years of service to the commonwealth in 2015,” the release said. “The UK Division of Public Heath Dentistry began the Seal Kentucky program, one component of the overall mobile outreach program, in 1996.”

“My first experience with these trips was also as a first-year UK College of Dentistry student and now I’ve been involved as a professor for eight years,” Associate Professor Kelly Dingrando said in the release. “It’s wonderful to see dental students grow into being comfortable working with children and even consider pediatric dentistry when they graduate. They’re also learning one way to give back to communities. At the same time, young Kentuckians are receiving care and learning more about oral health. We’re hoping with each new generation, we’ll see greater oral health literacy.”

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