Dental Hygiene Student Volunteers Making a Difference

Students entering post-secondary education in Dental Hygiene look forward to the day when they can declare, “I am a Dental Hygienist.”(1) Choosing dental hygiene as their profession, completing studies and identifying with our national association are part of the emerging professional. “I educate and empower Canadians to embrace their oral health for better overall health and well-being.”(1)  [1]Staff and students from John Abbott College embraced these concepts on Saturday May 13, 2017 when, in partnership with the Canadian Alliance for Syrian Aid (CASA) and Red Cross, they had the unique opportunity to participate in a Dental Public Health event.

Twenty-one dental hygiene students and four faculty members offered Oral Hygiene Education and supported a free Clinical Screening completed by dentists. This event allowed our students to share knowledge while incorporating their communication and organizational skills. Students provided cultural familiarity as 10 spoke Arabic thereby facilitating initial questioning concerning oral pain and tooth sensitivity and delivering oral hygiene instruction. The power point presentation was prepared in both English and Arabic to allow the refugees the opportunity to more easily appreciate the material.

Faculty played a pivotal role throughout the day. Josee Tessier welcomed everyone and introduced the refugees to oral hygiene care.  The power point presentation included concepts of biofilm, hard deposits, as well as brushing, proximal surface cleaning options and mouth rinses.  Smoking cessation, nutritional guidance and an introduction to the oral/systemic link were featured. “It’s a good feeling to help the ones that are in need” commented Josee Tessier “I hope that this event is a start for a new path of heath public service. It is a first step in the accessibility to dental hygiene care.” Anila Hasko spoke next, having arrived in Canada 18 years ago as a political refugee.  She identified with the participants and offered her journey as an example of success. “It’s a new dream and I became a successful dental hygienist and I told them never to give up.”

The students were energized, empathetic and enthusiastic to share their knowledge.  Comments included “I would like to THANK YOU for giving me this great opportunity because today was the first day that I was able to use my knowledge to help others” or “I was surprised that very few of them were aware on how to brush.  Most were very attentive and eager to know and learn.”  Josee wrote to the students “The profession of dental hygiene will shine because of YOU.” To facilitate continued oral self-care and inform them of the availability of professional services, the refugees were given a ‘parting gift’ that included a toothbrush and paste, dental floss, mouth rinse, a summary card with oral hygiene reminders and contact information for dental facilities. McGill University and Université de Montréal were recommended for complex dental treatment and three Dental Hygiene colleges (English and French) for preventive treatment.

The Syrian refugees were very appreciative of the professional services provided and repeatedly thanked our students.  It was a memorable event – for everyone!

1

Christine Fambely DH, Cert. in Health Ed., B.A., M.Ed.

christinef@johnabbott.qc.ca

[1] D’Aoust Angie, Oh Canada CDHA Spring 2014 Forging Our Professional Identity p. 11.