Fresno Dental Assisting students provide dental services to veterans
Nearly 70 military veterans received much-needed dental services through Veterans’ Smile Day, an event hosted by the Fresno-Madera Dental Society. This November event invited dental health professionals – many of whom are, themselves, military veterans – and well-trained dental assisting students to volunteer their time to serve those who so selflessly served their country.
Student volunteers were given a brief orientation and assigned to roles that ranged from escorting and screening patients, to providing chairside services for treating dentists, as well as infection control duties.
- Karla Cook
- Krystin Kahle
- Harry Hernandez
- Victor Verdugo
- Carlos Rosales
Sandra Lozito, RDA instructor, supervised the volunteer team.
The doors at Dr. Robert Starr’s Fresno dental office opened at 7 a.m., where many veterans had been eagerly waiting since 5 a.m. Boy Scouts welcomed these special patients with a “Thank you for your service,” and directed them to a triage station set up to determine the patients’ specific dental needs.
Patients were then taken to one of three areas: Hygiene, restorative dentistry or oral surgery for their recommended treatment – some receiving multiple services.
“Volunteering for the Veterans’ Smile event made me appreciate what I’m going for (dental career),” says Victor Verdugo, SJVC Dental Assisting student at the Fresno campus. “I was assisting in oral procedures involving so many courageous soldiers who have fought for us.”
Health histories were taken from all patients and their vital signs recorded. Appropriate radiographs (X-rays) were taken and a full mouth exam done to identify areas needing attention and repair. Dental health and restoration services provided during the event included cleanings, fillings, extractions, root canals and impressions for restorative appliances that would be manufactured and fitted at a later date.
“The patients were a pleasure to work with, and the volunteers were inspirational to observe,” says Sandra Lozito, RDA instructor at SJVC’s Fresno campus. “The compassion and professionalism that I witnessed were top notch.”
SJVC believes that Dental Assisting students benefit greatly from the hands-on experience students gain from volunteering for events such as Veterans’ Smile Day. “In my personal experience, it helped me because it gives me the opportunity to work in a real dental office with real patients; I interact with them and follow protocols while serving the patients,” says Karla Cook, Dental Assistant student.
Dental Assistant student volunteers seemed to get as much from the day’s activities as did their grateful patients. “The highlight of my day with the veterans was when Harry and I assisted with multiple extractions on the same soldier,” says Victor. “Boy, was that man a true soldier! I had met the soldier before the procedure, so it was a pleasure to assist with this patient’s treatment.”
The volunteers made this day of service successful. “All patient treatment, operational facilities and supplies were donated from various members of the dental community here in the Valley,” says Sandra Lozito. “Student volunteers received a certificate of appreciation for their service.”
The Fresno-Madera Dental Society hopes to provide this event for military veterans each November. “The Veterans’ Smile event is a great learning experience and, also, a really good opportunity to meet new people, new dentists and share our experiences together,” says Victor. “I would most definitely attend this event in the future if asked.”
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