(COLLEGE STATION, TX) — Abraham Kulungara, a graduate student at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health, recently organized a collaborative effort to provide dental sealants to 45 children at Somerville Elementary School.

The collaboration included the HSC-SRPH, Brazos Valley Health Partnership (BVHP), Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), Blinn College Dental Hygiene Program and Somerville Independent School District.

Mr. Kulungara, formally trained as a dentist in his native country of India, sought the assistance of Ms. Angie Alaniz, project director of the BVHP at HSC-SRPH, in determining a final project required for the Master of Public Health degree.

“It was her wonderful idea about a dental sealant project,” Mr. Kulungara said. “Ms. Alaniz was my preceptor for this practicum and advised me throughout the course of the project.”

To find the best place to carry out the project, Mr. Kulungara sought the help of the DSHS regional dentist, William Gray, D.D.S. In examining Brazos Valley, they decided on Somerville because Burleson County is listed as a dental health professional shortage area with only six dentists in the county and none in Somerville.

“More than half of the students in Somerville Elementary School were on free or reduced lunch programs, and this was one of the criteria the oral health group at the DSHS wanted to meet in order to help us out with the project,” Mr. Kulungara said.

Dr. Gray performed a screening Nov. 9 to determine the children eligible to receive the sealant, based upon their oral health. They targeted 100 children in the second through fourth grades. Sixty-five children had the permission slip signed by their parents, and 45 were eligible to and received the sealant.

Student hygienists from the Blinn College Dental Hygiene Program, under the direction of Blinn faculty member Marqué Mathis, helped Dr. Gray in placing the sealant on the children’s teeth the following day.

The DSHS provided “goody bags” containing toothpaste, toothbrush and stickers for the 65 children. They also received oral health related puzzles and instruction in proper brushing techniques while waiting for the procedure. Patterson Dental Company of Houston, with the help of Ms. Melody Wilde from the company, provided the sealants.

“This would not have happened without the collaborative efforts of everyone involved in the project,” Mr. Kulungara said. “The impact of this project will hopefully result in the improvement of the oral health of the county starting with its children and meet the underserved needs of a rural population.”

The Texas A&M Health Science Center provides the state with health education, outreach and research. Its six components located in communities throughout Texas are Baylor College of Dentistry, the College of Medicine, the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, the Institute of Biosciences and Technology, the Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy, and the School of Rural Public Health.

— Rae Lynn Mitchell