Valeria Alvarez and Angie Carmen cover the walnuts in the junk food mixture. Credit: Laura Mackin/BUGSDM
Meet the dental profession’s latest entrants.
Geared in white scrubs, masks and purple gloves, third-graders from Blackstone Elementary School in Boston spent part of their morning learning about the benefits of applying dental sealant, a thin, plastic film that dentists paint on teeth to prevent decay.
Students were handed two walnuts or “teeth” and a mixture of green goo to represent food and bacteria. Both of the walnuts, one with dental sealant and one without, were covered with the green mixture. The children then tried to brush off the mixture from the walnuts.
“This exercise lets the children see how a sealed “tooth” will repel junk food more easily, while the food gets caught in the grooves of the unsealed “tooth,” says Jackie Rubin, a spokesperson for the Boston University Goldman School of Dental Medicine.
All watching a computer monitor for the next instructions, the students performed their morning project in the School’s Simulation Learning Center, one of the most advanced spots for dental education in the city. Each year, the entire third-grade class from Blackstone Elementary come here to become “Dentists for a Day,” ridding walnuts of decay, working on dummy patients and participating in other oral health activities.
“Blackstone is a school that’s right in our area in the South End, we’ve had a relationship for several years,” Rubin says. The School also visits Blackstone annually as part of Smart Smiles, a school-based oral health initiative to provide free oral health education, screenings, and dental sealants to thousands of children in Boston Public Schools.
Aside from the public health aspect, Rubin says programs like “Dentists for a Day” and Smart Smiles could entice children into dentistry. According to the American Dental Association, the number of dentists entering the profession is diminishing. “Pipeline programs are one way we can interest young children who may not have considered a career in health sciences,” Rubin says.
Denis Herrera removes his examination gloves, turning them inside out so bacteria does not spread. Credit: Laura Mackin/BUGSDM