Marquette Wire

Special care dentistry students attend Special Olympics, offer free dental screenings

Jadwiga+Hjertstedt%2C+the+Clinical+Assistant+Professor+is+the+faculty+mentor+for+the+entirely+student-run+chapter+which+has+35+present+members+enrolled.+Photo+by+Jennifer+Walter%2Fjennifer.walter%40marquette.edu
Jadwiga Hjertstedt, the Clinical Assistant Professor is the faculty mentor for the entirely student-run chapter which has 35 present members enrolled. Photo by Jennifer Walter/jennifer.walter@marquette.edu

Jadwiga Hjertstedt, the Clinical Assistant Professor is the faculty mentor for the entirely student-run chapter which has 35 present members enrolled. Photo by Jennifer Walter/jennifer.walter@marquette.edu

Jadwiga Hjertstedt, the Clinical Assistant Professor is the faculty mentor for the entirely student-run chapter which has 35 present members enrolled. Photo by Jennifer Walter/jennifer.walter@marquette.edu

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Students from the Special Care Dentistry Association chapter at Marquette attended Special Olympics in Eau Claire April 23.

The program, “Special Smiles,” had dental students take participants aside at the event to do dental screenings, put fluoride on their teeth and give them mouth guards. All Marquette dental students were invited to attend the event.

All students enrolled in the dental school are required to treat patients for a week with mental and physical disabilities in the Advanced Care clinic on campus. But, some students decide to continue focusing specifically on those patients.

The SCDA chapter at Marquette was initiated two years ago and is open to dental students of all grades. 

Jadwiga Hjertstedt, the Clinical Assistant Professor is the faculty mentor for the entirely student-run chapter which has 35 present members enrolled.

“Some students have interest in patients with special needs earlier, even before they come to dental school,” Hjertstedt said. “(Often) because they have a family member (or a friend) with special needs.”

The chapter allows students to branch out to assist a variety of groups with special needs.

Jennifer Jackson, a fourth-year dental student, went to Hjertstedt after being a therapist for Wisconsin Early Autism Project. She proposed the idea for a desensitization program in which dental students do in-home visits with patients on the autism spectrum. The goal of this project is to get them acquainted with the setting of a dentist office.

“(This) made me realize how hard it is for kids who have autism to go to the dentist and how hard it is for their families and for everyone involved,” Jackson said. 

Two dental students are assigned to each patient during house visits. 

“They go there, show them booklets, talk to them about the mouth and show them things that might be used,” Hjerstedt said. “Once the child feels comfortable with them in their own homes, then they come here with the students and the parents to see the actual clinic.”

Patients visit the clinic after hours so that they don’t become overwhelmed by its busy atmosphere during the daytime.

“I think its good for even the underclassmen to be exposed to working with kids with special needs,” Jackson said. “It’s so important for general dentists to work with that population because it’s a hugely under-served population. So I think this is a unique way for kids to benefit and for us to benefit.”

Mary Cimrmancic, a group leader who works with students in the Advanced Care clinic, says the students she sees join the SCDA chapter are passionate about what they do.

“It really comes from the heart,”Cimrmancic said. “I don’t think they can really go through their career and not treat patients with special needs”

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