Dental Hygiene, Optometry, Pharmacy and PA Students Collaborate to Serve Area Kids
HILLSBORO — They came for the face paint and stickers, and they stayed — most of them — for the cleanings and a few fillings.
The Dental Hygiene Clinic at Pacific University’s Hillsboro Campus was in a happy hubbub Feb. 8, as students and their professors tended to the dental needs of about 75 children aged 2 to 17. For the clients, drawn from the surrounding area, the service was free and, often, fun.
Maleni, 2, sat comfortably in a stuffed chair, wearing a bib, goggles and a paper name tag. She bit down on the X-ray wings, even though they were big for her mouth, and waited as Assistant Professor Lesley Harbison gently poked a probe inside her mouth. Maleni clamped her jaws closed and shook her head firmly as senior Laura Reyes tried to coax her to open her mouth for a small applicator of fluoride, though. In the end, Reyes and Maleni’s assigned buddy surrendered and took her down from the chair.
“At a certain age, it’s all new,” said Reyes, who said she wished Maleni would have accepted the fluoride. But this visit was about more than cleaning her baby teeth: It was about acquainting her with the whole experience. Reyes said she abbreviated Maleni’s visit because “we don’t want to make them scared of the dentist.”
While Maleni walked out with her Pacific student “buddy,” wearing a sticker proudly on her hand, young people in other chairs bit down, opened wide and lay still while the students and the faculty members probed, cleaned and, in some cases, filled cavities. A nearby room was devoted to fun activities, with a pair of tooth fairies joining in the drawing and board games.
But even here, Pacific students were promoting good health. A group of students in the pharmacy program had pillboxes and other enticements to encourage people to take their medicine on schedule — medical adherence, they call it. And upstairs, optometry students gave eye exams to a handful of young people. Next door, physician assistant students waited for kids to filter in.
Events like Saturday’s dental clinics often center on the specialty of one school — in this case, dental hygiene — but other schools also take part, cross-pollinating ideas and learning together about how to deal with patients and parents. Pacific encourages students in the health professions to broaden their training by participating across disciplines.
Dental Hygiene Assistant Professor Kathryn Moore, who helped oversee Saturday’s clinic, said she appreciated the way students dove into the project, greeting young patients and their families at the front door, keeping them occupied until chairs were available, and making sure every young client had moral support in the form of a buddy.
The clinic brightened smiles around Washington County Saturday. And for some, like Maleni, it helped lay the foundation for a lifetime of dental hygiene.