Marquette Wire

Students make for toothy grins

Taryn Sauer

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Head Start is a program federally funded through Milwaukee Public Schools and Milwaukee County’s Social Development Commission, which provides services for 4,000 3- to 5-year-olds at the 100 percent poverty level.

In its fifth year, the Head Start Dental Day program was started to help children comply with the dental exam requirement to enter school. Such exams are not covered my Medicaid.

Junior and senior Marquette dental students and dental hygiene students from Marquette, Milwaukee Area Technical College and Waukesha County Technical College volunteered at the event, which ran from 9 a.m until 2 p.m.

“It exposes students to an age group that they normally would not have contact with,” said Cesar Gonzalez, associate professor and undergraduate program director of pediatric dentistry at Marquette.

Parents and kids lined up at the building’s rear entrance, where a long line extended to the sidewalk soon after opening.

Kids waiting in line met the tooth fairy, also known as Beth Clemence, a class of 1979 dental hygiene graduate who assists in dental instruction at Marquette every Wednesday.

“I always do this,” Clemence said of dressing in her full-length dress, wings and crown at community service events.

Two students per examination chair kept the line moving at a steady pace. The dental school facility can accommodate roughly 100 kids at one time, Gonzalez said.

In addition, volunteers helped with registration and instrument sterilization and checkout. Spanish translator volunteers were also available, including students in the Introduction To Spanish For The Health Professions, SPAN 154, course.

“It is a true representation of what can be accomplished with teamwork, dedication, organization and the willingness of individuals to give back to the community,” said Rachael Vogel, a junior Marquette dental student volunteer.

Nearly 400 kids had been screened and cleaned by 11:30 a.m., according to organizers, and the line shrunk significantly, extending to just outside the doors.

Children who had completed their examinations proudly showed off their pearly whites and Head Start grab bags, containing coloring books and crayons, donated by Sen. Herb Kohl, free cheeseburger coupons from McDonalds, and grocery vouchers funded by the Milwaukee Public School system and the Social Development Commission.

Austin, 3, was “terrified” during his examination, according to his mother, who learned about the program through her daycare provider. “But, the dental student was very nice,” she said.

“They gave me all this stuff,” said Austin, showing off his new toothbrush and toothpaste, courtesy of Procter & Gamble.

Lilliana, 4, opened her mouth wide and said, “See, the doctors brushed my teeth!” She and her mother waited on one of the four shuttle buses available for a ride back to their neighborhood.

By the end of the day, 588 children were examined, surpassing last year’s 560, said Thomas Raimann, co-chairman of the United Dental Professionals Committee, which also provided volunteers.

The Wisconsin Dental Association Insurance Programs, Inc., provided the free lunches for volunteers.

The program was also made possible by a $2,000 donation from the Wisconsin Dental Association Foundation and $1,000 from the Children’s Health Alliance of Wisconsin, Raimann said.

“The dental services provided normally would have cost around $6,000,” said Nanci Dabareiner, executive director of the Greater Milwaukee Dental Association.

Marquette students have volunteered for the Head Start program for the past five years. Fifty-five dental students, about a dozen hygiene students, and numerous faculty and staff participated this year, said Kathy Schrubbe, clinical associate professor and facilitator of Community Outreach Programs at the School of Dentistry.

“I couldn’t help but leave on Saturday with a smile, just thinking about all of the children we helped,” Vogel said.

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