Dental students aid needy
In the past, when University of Hawaii dental hygiene students needed to practice on real-life patients, they recruited friends and family.
But recently, 42 dental hygiene students were able to hone their skills while teaching 200 adults and children at the New Beginning Transitional Shelter at Barbers Point how to care for their teeth.
"It was a different level of challenge," said Mary Beth McClintock, an intern with the UH School of Social Work, which cooperated with the dental hygiene program.
The dental students held seminars Feb. 3 for separate groups of adults, teens and children, discussing dental hygiene, preventative oral health techniques and healthy eating.
About 30 adults from the shelter went on two Saturdays to the UH dental school for comprehensive dental exams, X-rays, teeth cleaning and fluoride treatments.
More people needed dental work but a lot of them "are just afraid of going to the dentist," McClintock said. Even some who signed up for the clinic "got afraid at the last minute," she said.
She said some students went to Barbers Point to greet the patients and make sure they had transportation to the Manoa campus.
Cleaning took all day for some patients, she said. "Some never had X-rays before or, if they had been to a dentist, it was not since childhood. A lot of them are in pretty bad shape. A lot of people are looking for restorative work."
Restorative services and other dental benefits are available now under a new state program for adult Medicaid recipients.
Dental hygiene students work under a dentist's supervision in the UH dental clinic, which is open to the public for a $25 fee, McClintock said. The fee was waived for the transitional shelter residents.
"It's kind of a pilot. We're hoping to keep it going every year where we work with shelters," McClintock said.
Ron Matayoshi with the School of Social Work helped to organize the program with Carolyn Kuba, chairwoman of the UH School of Nursing's dental hygiene department. Malia Utoafili was coordinator, McClintock said.
Collaborators included the Dental Samaritans, a subsidiary of the Hawaii Dental Association, which helped to cover expenses.