Students and faculty provide free dental screenings for children in Old Orchard Beach

Dental student Ayla Nelson helps a young patient practice her toothbrushing skills using a stuffed animal
Dental student Ayla Nelson helps a young patient practice her toothbrushing skills using a stuffed animal

Students and faculty from the College of Dental Medicine recently spent three days at the Jameson School in Old Orchard Beach providing free dental screenings and oral hygiene education to 23 children.

For some of the children, it was their first dental experience.

“Getting health insurance can be a struggle for families,” said Mike Flaherty, principal of the Jameson School. “So, dental care usually gets put on the back burner.”

Flaherty reached out to Old Orchard Beach School Board Committee member Carol Marcotte for help. Marcotte is part of UNE’s College of Arts and Sciences.

“I want to do what I can for the students in my town,” said Marcotte, Ph.D., senior lecturer in UNE’s Department of Education. “On the other hand, I want to make connections between our colleges, the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Dental Medicine, too. So, for us, this was a perfect, perfect connection.”

Nicole Kimmes, D.D.S., associate dean of Curriculum Integration and Analytics in CDM, advocates bringing dental students into the community to contribute to the improvement of oral health beyond the traditional dental practice setting. She says the students provide a valuable service to the children they examine and their families.

“Parents may not have the means to get their child to a dentist or may not know where to go,” she explained. “Screenings like this give us the opportunity to identify urgent or other treatment needs, and help connect the child to a dental home.”

The outreach allows students to apply what they have learned in a community setting.

“I'd say it's probably the most important part of the education process,” stated Ayla Nelson (Dental Medicine, ’19). “I believe getting out of the classroom and having that hands-on work is the most fulfilling and most beneficial part of the learning process.”

Nelson says her goal is to make her young patients feel comfortable, especially if it is their first time having their teeth checked.

“We're happy to do it in this kind of setting,” she explained. “One that's not as threatening as a dental office. Each visit after that usually gets a little bit better for them, especially if they have a positive experience the first time.”

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Nicole Kimmes takes a close look inside a young child's mouth for any potential dental problems
Nicole Kimmes takes a close look inside a young child's mouth for any potential dental problems

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