U of M Dental Therapy Students Make Teeth Happy at Lifeworks.

Brush, brush, brush your teeth
At least two times a day.
Cleaning, cleaning, cleaning, cleaning,
Fighting tooth decay.

We all know it is important to brush our teeth regularly, floss everyday and see our dentist twice a year for check ups. Sometimes going to see the dentist can be a stressful experience and so for that reason Lifeworks has partnered with the University of Minnesota for more than five years to host dental hygiene students in a community outreach partnership.

This year our partnership with the university offered an unexpected surprise. The students that came to Lifeworks were members of the very first Dental Therapy class at the U of MN. Dental Therapy is a newly created career path at the university. This year’s students will be among the first in the nation to graduate with the degree. Their program is the only midlevel provider education program in the country that is affiliated with an accredited school of dentistry.

Their degree does not allow diagnosis but will prepare them to provide preventative and restorative care for patients whose issues are straight forward and without complication.

Our clients always look forward to having the students come, review proper oral hygiene and talk about the importance of good dental health. This year’s students participated at the Minneapolis and Brooklyn Park centers. On their first visit they offered a pretest of dental health knowledge and then each week added more information about brushing, flossing, rinsing and regular dental visits.

I asked the Minneapolis clients what they had learned and what they would remember from this year’s students. Hands went up all over the room.

“They taught us the dos and don’ts of brushing.” “They said go to the dentist every year for your check up.” “Take care of your teeth so we don’t get cavities or denture.” “Having clean teeth and good breathe is important to getting a job.” And finally, “Tell them to come back again next year, we like to have them.”

Having the students come is an effort to create a friendly way to interact with the dentist and hopefully reduce stress for the future. But the purpose is a two fold, we also want to expose these future dental professionals to the people we support so they will have a comfort level too. I asked the students who came to our Minneapolis center what they will take away from being with us. All three said the experience was both fun and also educational.

“We had to learn to adapt our techniques and be ready to improvise”, said Brandi Tweeter.

Denae Helton added, “This experience will put us at ease when we have someone with a disability at the office. The more interactions that we have the opportunity for will create more comfort both groups.”

And finally Lindsey Tischer said, “I learned that people with disabilities are just like everyone else. This has been a good experience to establish relationships. I think we learned just as much as we tried to teach.”

Our clients were sad when the Dental Therapy students completed their community outreach hours and we had to say goodbye. We look forward to next year’s class and we wish this group all the best as they pursue their new careers. They will graduate in December of 2011. Thanks for spending time with Lifeworks, now don’t forget to floss!


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