From left, ENMU-R Dental Hygiene students Bonnie Ledden, Meliza Trevino and Theresa Ulibarri stand in front of their table clinic as part of the school’s Global Dental Health Awareness Campaign. (Julia Bergman photo)
Nine Eastern New Mexico University Dental Hygiene students thought outside of the box, or better yet country, in order to study dental hygiene and nutrition in different communities and cultures.
The nine students separated into groups to examine dental hygiene and nutrition in countries of their choice. The students chose to focus on India, Italy and South America.
On Monday morning, the students set up table clinics, for their respective countries, in the Health Science Center Dental Clinic Waiting Room at ENMU-R. Each table featured a cultural food sampling, PowerPoint presentation outlining the unique dental experiences of the respective country and student demonstrations of oral care procedures. Each attendee also received a free toothbrush.
Attendees were encouraged to vote for their favorite table clinic. The winning group will receive a certificate of merit and $100 from the New Mexico Dental Hygiene Association.
Dianne Petrale, clinical instructor for the Dental Hygiene Program, said students were assigned the table clinics to help them improve socialization skills and speak with authority about dental care issues. She said the state is in need of health care providers across the board. She added the school wants to focus the students’ attention towards the needs of the state through public health.
The dental hygiene students coordinated the event as part of a Global Dental Health Awareness Campaign Monday morning. The students also completed the assignment to meet part of the core curriculum through UNM in Dental Public Health, and as part of their clinical semester seminar.
Meliza Trevino, one of the dental hygiene students, said the event also served as an outreach to the community. She said it showed attendees the duties dental hygienists can perform outside of clinics such as sponsor programs, raise awareness and give nutritional guidance and counseling. Trevino discovered many interesting and different dental hygiene traits surrounding her respective country Italy. While the country has an excellent health care system, she said only those with poor oral hygiene seem to purchase dental insurance. Dental hygiene is widely marketed in the country with other items such as beauty treatments, Trevino said.
“Individual countries and cultures have different standards of dental hygiene,” Petrale said. She cited South Americans and their large consumption of mangos as an example. When consumed heavily, mango deteriorates one’s front teeth. Since the majority of South Americans have this deterioration, they do not consider tooth decay to be a taboo or problem, Petrale said.
Carla Stewart, a dental hygiene student, whose group studied India, said the country has the best dental hygiene school in the world. Yet people in India do not value oral care, Sarah Reese, her groupmate said. While those living in India care largely about nutrition, this concern does not seem to translate to oral care. Those living in India often opt to visit street dentists. “They go to the dentist when it hurts,”Jordan Haider, another groupmate, said. She added that there is a lot of misinformation concerning dental hygiene and nutrition. “There is such a need for education [surrounding dental hygiene and nutrition] worldwide because so many people are miseducated about this [type of information],” Haider said.