Volunteer organizations tend to leave people grinning, but few more literally than Sealants for Smiles.
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Throughout March, Sealants for Smiles is celebrating its 100,000th sealant application since 2007. Sealants are plastic barriers that protect teeth from decay-causing bacteria and help reduce tooth decay by 70 percent, according to the Surgeon General’s report on oral health.
The celebration will coincide with the annual “Love Utah, Give Utah” fundraising drive during the last week of March. As the Bennion Center’s first program focused on dentistry, U students have the opportunity to assist in the program’s clinics.
Sally Goodger, a sophomore in English, said she is glad the U now has a dental care volunteer program.
“I think a lot of the time, when we think ‘underprivileged,’ we don’t think about things like dental care,” Goodger said. “We tend to think about so-called bigger issues, but dental care is an equally important part of health care, and children have a right to a healthy mouth.”
Tyler Mikesell, a junior in pre-dental, is the student community director for Sealants for Smiles. Mikesell said students do not need to be involved in the U’s dental program to apply, and the program currently has three student representatives.
“We want students who care about others and have a willingness to make a real difference in the community,” Mikesell said. “It doesn’t matter if you are planning on going to dental school, you can make a lasting impact in the life of a child who relies on our service.”
The organization works to improve the health of underrepresented elementary school students along the Wasatch front. Students who return a permission form may receive an oral exam, fluoride application and dental sealants. According to the Centers for Disease Control, tooth decay is the most common chronic disease in children, affecting 60 percent of those between give and 17 years old. Most children with tooth decay are from low-income families. Since 2007, Sealant for Smiles has seen untreated dental decay fall from 51 percent to 21 percent.
Grants, donations and state funds provide support for these programs. According to their website, all donations supply the application of dental sealants and fluoride varnish.
Mikesell said Sealants for Smiles is not a replacement for traditional dental care, as the program is a school-based preventative program. If a child needs additional care, his or her parents are provided with information about low cost or free dental clinics in their area.
“I think U students should care about every community service project the university is involved in … because it shows that our university cares,” Goodger said. “Sometimes [college] can feel like this monstrous, bureaucratic thing, but this shows the human side of us.”
There will be volunteering opportunities throughout March that take place at different schools each week. Students interested in applying can contact the Bennion Center for more information.
Volunteer Dates for Sealant for Smiles:
-March 2, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Edison Elementary (466 S. Cheyenne St., SLC)
-March 23-26, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at Meadowlark Elementary (497 N. Morton Dr., SLC)
-March 25-26, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Meadowlark Elementary (497 N. Morton Dr., SLC)