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Second graders at Landis get dental help with the 3 Rs

Visiting with the dentist for Susan Scott's second graders at Cleveland's Joseph Landis School on Hampden Avenue means some reading, writing and arithmetic.

Dressed in green scrubs, 15 first-year students from Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine take a break Thursday afternoons between classes in neurobiology and oral histology to visit the elementary school in the Glenville neighborhood. They tutor Scott's 20 children, and when there happens to be more Case students than second-grade work, the volunteers head next door to Deb Kunze's class to work with her children.

Seeing men in the classroom is rare for the students, and so Kunze says there is a rush to the table where volunteer Keith Schneider and other male students sit. Aside from feeling good at helping a child read better, Schneider also is plastered with hugs from students. That brings on a few questions from his dental classmates of "why does Keith get all the hugs?" as they look at Schneider buried under the arms of little children.

Schneider later shrugs and says maybe it's his gentle voice.

Volunteering in Scott's class has become a dental legacy, with the torch picked up by the dental school's new first-year class, according to Everett Wu, who organized the volunteer brigade this year along with Vivian Khoury and Crystal Perry.

"It's the only time during dental school where there is a block of time to volunteer. If we weren't here, we might be sitting around at the school for a couple of hours," Wu added.

Recently the children had an extra treat as the volunteers and their faculty leader James Lalumandier, chair of the dental school's community dentistry department, arrived with pizzas followed by some goody bags that included new toothbrushes, toothpaste and a book about why it's important to brush and floss your teeth.

Teirra Smiley, 8, says, "It's fun."

In between learning some new spelling words and working out double-digit addition problems-which can be "a nightmare" Scott says for second graders-Wu and other volunteers like Torie Cox and Khoury say they slip in a few oral hygiene lessons.

Each second grader in the Cleveland schools has the opportunity for a free dental check-up and to have sealants applied to permanent molars through the Case dental school's Healthy Smiles sealant program. Along with the sealant program under the direction of Lalumandier, an educational program stresses good oral health. But reinforcing that message is important, according to Wu.

Teirra got the message. "I should take care of my teeth and brush them," she says. She also points out that she should eat healthy food like apples, bananas and raisins.

While the dental message is important, Wu also said that the children have greater academic challenges that need some of the young dental doctors' chair-side attention.

Scott couldn't agree more.

"When the children get one-on-one attention, they learn a lot more," she explained, noting that her class has five children with severe behavior problems that can disrupt learning for others if not controlled.

Wu said he has seen a big change in the class from their first day months ago until the recent pizza party. "The children have really settled down. Besides the academics, the children have learned to interact with a group of very different people," added Wu, who mentioned that he thinks he may be one of the first Chinese people that the students have ever talked to.

In addition to the dental students volunteering in classrooms at Joseph Landis, students from Case's Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, Key Bank and the U.S. Department of Education help in a volunteer program organized by Scott.

 

About Case Western Reserve University

Case is among the nation's leading research institutions. Founded in 1826 and shaped by the unique merger of the Case Institute of Technology and Western Reserve University, Case is distinguished by its strengths in education, research, service, and experiential learning. Located in Cleveland, Case offers nationally recognized programs in the Arts and Sciences, Dental Medicine, Engineering, Law, Management, Medicine, Nursing, and Social Work. http://www.case.edu.