Dental hygiene students treat 400 children in Dominican Republic

PHOTO PROVIDED From left, Penn College dental hygiene students Megan M. Mecouch, of Peach Bottom, Lancaster County; Kayla C. Summerson, of Emporium, Cameron County, and Lori M. Weaver, of Newmanstown, Lebanon County, join classmates in cleaning children’s teeth at a school in the Dominican Republic.

Seventeen Pennsylvania College of Technology dental hygiene students recently returned from the Dominican Republic, where they provided dental care to children at six schools in the Las Terrenas area.

Most students were enrolled in Oral Health Care Field Experience, an elective course that allows them to increase their cultural competency by planning, providing and evaluating primary oral health services for an underserved population.

“This was my second year going on this trip. Last year was truly amazing; it is such an eye-opener,” said Karlee E. Moyer, a student from Hollsopple. “Words really can’t describe the impact the Dominican people have on me. All of them have such a special place in my heart.”

The group — which also included two faculty members — provided preventive dental hygiene services and education to approximately 400 children during their weeklong outreach efforts.

In addition to cleaning the children’s teeth, the group placed sealants and provided toothbrushes, toothpaste and home care instructions.

“This year, I was asked by my amazing instructor, Mrs. (Rhonda J.) Seebold, to come up with a way to keep track of the number of sealants we did,” Moyer said. “So I came up with a system using Popsicle sticks. By the end of the week, we calculated over 600 sealants. That number is amazing.”

Seebold, a part-time member of the dental hygiene faculty, has been leading international learning experiences for dental hygiene students since 2008. Students have traveled to Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.

During their time in the field, students learn to adapt to situations that are very different from the typical dental office.

“With this trip, you have to be very flexible, because they really have so little,” Moyer said. “We set up on desks and chairs to clean the children’s teeth in such small areas. I think being able to adapt to these difficult situations and just being around these children and their culture will help my career in the future.”