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MTI students brighten smiles

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  • | 4:00 a.m. May 9, 2012
  • East County
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LAKEWOOD RANCH — Braden River Elementary School student Alexis Carrillo was a little nervous as he lay back in a dental chair and readied to open his mouth wide.

“I’m really excited about having clean teeth,” Carrillo said, adding he already had learned new things about tooth care. “The stuff on my teeth has bacteria (on it). I never knew what it was. I thought plaque was black.”

Carrillo was one of about 30 Manatee County public school children who received free dental care from students in Manatee Technical Institute’s dental assisting program May 4. During the “We Care” Dental Project event, held two to four times annually, MTI students provided pediatric teeth polishing, fluoride treatments, radiographs and oral health screenings under the supervision of local dentists Drs. Allison O’Brien and Joe Wright.

“There are a lot of under-served children in Manatee County,” Dental Assisting Program Director Kim Bland said of why MTI partnered with local school nurses to create “We Care.” “We feel we need be part of the answer to the problem.”

The event also provides MTI students with hands-on training before entering the workforce. For many dental students participating, the children were their first patients besides mannequins and their classmates.

“It’s very different (than in class),” MTI student Kandis Howey said. “We know what to do and what to expect, but (you get to put it into practice at this clinic).”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports dental disease is the No. 1 chronic illness in children in the United States.

School nurses in the East County began banding together in late 2008 to provide access to dental care for children in need, and have since worked with local dentists to provide dental clinics at Creekwood Dental and at MTI for needy students.

“We try to focus on the (children) who don’t have insurance and have never been to the dentist,” said Cheryl Stuart, a school nurse for McNeal and Braden River elementary schools, who helped start the program.

“Often students have Medicaid, but it might be months to get in and there are very few (dentists to take Medicaid patients locally). We can get them in.”

Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].


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