CCCC dental students learn and serve
For Central Carolina Community College dental programs students, their work is all about a happy smile and better health, especially when they are providing volunteer community service.
“It’s a wonderful experience to give back what I’ve learned,” said Dental Hygiene student Scott Duff, of Lee County. “At the same time, I learn from the patients. When they come in, not many are smiling, but when we’re done, they smile. It’s beautiful.”
Duff is talking about the many, many hours of community service that the college’s Dental Hygiene and Dental Assisting students do each year.
The students spend hundreds of hours learning their skills to assist dentists in caring for patients’ teeth during classes at the college’s Dental Center at the W.B. Wicker Business Campus, as well as in clinicals in dentists’ offices.
They also spend a lot of time reaching out to surrounding communities as volunteers, applying what they’ve learned. Through this, they help put smiles on people’s faces, especially children, who may never have seen a dentist or ever had routine dental care.
The students work with dentists in Chatham, Lee, Harnett and Moore counties who volunteer their time in dental health outreaches such as Give Kids a Smile, Baptist Men’s Dental Bus, St. Joseph of the Pines Dental Bus, Moore Regional Hospital’s Teddy Bear Fair, and Missions of Mercy.
At J. Glenn Edwards Elementary School, the dental programs students provide dental health education for all third graders. This has become an annual event. The Dental Hygiene and Dental Assisting students have even gone to Fort Bragg to work with patients in the base’s dental program.
At all these outreaches, the students get to see the impact their skills have on helping others.
According to the National Institutes of Health, the United States has seen marked improvements in the nation’s oral and dental health, but there is, “‘a silent epidemic’ of dental and oral diseases … that restricts activities in school, work, and home, and often significantly diminishes the quality of life …. oral health is integral to general health. You cannot be healthy without oral health.” (www.nidcr.nih, “Oral Health in America: A Report of the Surgeon General”)
CCCC’s dental program instructors understand that. That is why they encourage students to volunteer in community outreaches.
“The community college is what it says it is: ‘a community college’,” said Wendy Seymore, CCCC Dental Assisting instructor. “That means that we are here to serve the needs of the community by training students for professions that are needed in order to fill positions specific to our area, as well as giving back in terms of service.”
Seymore said that training in this way creates not only students who can go out and provide a living for themselves and their families, but also well-rounded students who are keenly aware of the struggles that others have and are willing to help to address those needs.
“This teaches many of them to take their first steps in community service,” Seymore said. “It is my greatest pleasure to watch them develop this servant attitude. I feel encouraged that this won’t stop here at CCCC but will be part of an attitude that they will carry away with them beyond this college experience.”
At the community outreach events, the students may perform a general prophylaxis (cleaning), screening, sealants, and fluoride treatments. They assist dentists who have volunteered their time and skills to treat patients at these events. The students also instruct children in good dental health and eating for health. They always work under the direction of one of their instructors or a dentist.
“The Give Kids a Smile dental sealant program in Harnett and Lee counties has grown into a more coordinated effort of overall health, working with other departments of the college such as Medical Assisting,” said Vicky Wesner, CCCC Dental Programs coordinator. “Other health screenings, nutrition reviews, etc. have been added to the events.”
Dr. Antonio Braithwaite, of Sanford Pediatric Dentistry, is one of the dentists the students work with at these events.
“As a public servant in the dental profession, it truly warms my heart to take part in helping students become more comfortable, competent and confident while treating patients who desperately need the care being provided,” Braithwaite said. “During community service programs, it is important to realize that compassionate volunteers are the reason why programs work. We should never forget that patients never care how much you know until they know how much you care. CCCC dental students and faculty have always epitomized and stood for the highest standards regarding patient care.”
He added that volunteerism, because it offers experiences to learn and simultaneously help others, results in both the volunteer and patient leaving with a sense of fulfillment. Volunteer experiences also add value to a student’s overall educational experience because they offer hands-on clinical opportunities that are directly related to the course of study.
The students say they receive great satisfaction from the services they give.
“It’s rewarding,” said Dental Assisting student Linda Jacobs, of Harnett County. “At events like the Teddy Bear Fair and Give Kids a Smile and the Dental Bus, you get to work with the kids and see the smiles you give them. It makes you feel good to help people who can’t afford oral health.”
The 2014 Dental Assisting class just graduated. They are: Linda Jacobs, Maria Moreno, Laura Griffin, Candace Ramroth, Wendy Thomas Edwards, and Patricia Treminio, all of Sanford; Lauren Taylor, of Broadway; Kendell Hinkle, of Olivia; Stephanie Boney, of Angier; Anna Wheeler, of Holly Springs; Liana Tarallo, of Apex; and Lauren Massey, of Raleigh.
The Dental Hygiene Class of 2015 members are Scott Duff, of Sanford; Amber Loveless and Brittanie Doornbos, both of Erwin; Stephanie Damery, of Angier; Lisa Buxton and Ashley Parker, both of Pittsboro; Kimberly Rains, of Carthage; Aleesha Gardner, of Pinebluff; Cheryl King, of Spring Lake; Tiffany Streeter, of Fort Bragg; Evelyn Smith-Sutton, of Raleigh; and Melinda Mekemson, of Chapel Hill.
For more information about Central Carolina Community College’s Dental Hygiene and Dental Assisting programs, visit www.cccc.edu/dental or contact Vicky Wesner at (919) 777-7782 or firstname.lastname@example.org.