Penn students give teeth to community outreach program

Penn Dental sealant Penn Dental junior Avi Weiner explains the application of sealants to Wilson Elementary School student Jaquan Lattimore-El, 8. Photo credit: Jordan Reese

Sugary treats such as cake, ice cream, candy and soda are a delight to the taste buds of most children, but they are also a danger that could damage their teeth.

The Community Sealant Program, operated by Penn Dental Medicine, is out to preserve children’s pearly whites through preventative care and by teaching them the habits of good oral health.

Launched last fall, the program enables approximately 120 second and sixth graders at West Philadelphia’s Bryant, Lea, and Wilson elementary schools to receive free care from Penn Dental students.

Penn Dental juniors and seniors recently visited Wilson Elementary School to apply dental sealants on students’ teeth. The sealants act as protective barriers against the bacteria, sugars and acids that attack teeth, particularly the first and second molars that erupt in this age group.

Penn students and instructors arrived on site using PhillyCarShare and in minutes had their portable “dental office”—including chairs, operator stools, halogen lights and sealant equipment—up and running.

The Wilson students received a routine checkup and the sealant, which takes 15 to 30 minutes to apply. Afterwards, the youngsters were given an oral health “report card” and helpful hints on how to reduce the risk of future cavities.

The Community Sealant Program, led by Joan Gluch, director of community health at Penn Dental, and Robert Collins, chief of Penn Dental’s Division of Community Oral Health, is one of many outreach efforts operated by the dental school. Others include PennSmiles, a partnership with the School District of Philadelphia that provides oral health education, screening and referral services in the classroom and aboard its mobile clinic, the PennSmiles van.

Penn Dental students log nearly 9,600 service hours each year, serving 20,000 Philadelphians.

Originally published on April 1, 2010