South Bronx’s Dental Hygiene Hero: Q&A with Mary Manning

This year, the Dental Hygiene Unit at Hostos Community College in New York held an outreach program for residents in the South Bronx.

They treated more than 100 children, providing dental exams, cleaning, flouride and sealant,  as well as education to the patients and their families for improving their oral health.

In this Q&A, Mary Manning, Assistant Professor at Hostos Community College Dental Hygiene Unit, describes the South Bronx Dental Health Initiative and the importance of preventative care and dental hygiene for children.

Mary Manning and Dental Hygiene Unit at South Bronx Dental Health Initiative

What inspired you to host the South Bronx Dental Health Initiative?

Two years ago I participated in a medical mission in the Dominican Republic. I was the only dental personnel on the mission, so my hands were full.

I was able to work with two local high school students who assisted me during patient care by educating the patients about caring for their teeth and applying fluoride. With the student’s hard work, I was able to see over 150 patients in four-and-a-half days!

This was an amazing experience (I even learned some Spanish), and the patients I treated were grateful, gracious and each one blessed me before they left.

It was during the medical mission that I was inspired to continue this work with my students in the South Bronx.

This year I was fortunate enough to receive a major grant from NobleCare and products and supplies from the Henry Schein Cares FoundationThe money and supplies were used to implement our first South Bronx Dental Health Initiative.

Why is oral health care so important in areas like the South Bronx?

This project addressed the need for routine preventative care for low-income children of the South Bronx. Children from low-income families are at great risk of suffering from tooth infection and pain, and good dental hygiene habits can help to prevent these issues.

Our dental hygiene patient care facility was used to treat neighborhood children (ages 3-16) quickly and compassionately by providing preventative services.

These included exams, education, prophylaxis and sealants. We also arranged to provide re-care appointments annually and encouraged parents/guardians to seek care at our dental hygiene care facility in the future.

This initiative also served to promote dental hygienists as the key stakeholders in providing oral health care education and compassionate dental hygiene preventative treatment.

What makes projects like the South Bronx Dental Health Initiative so special?

For this outreach project, the Dental Hygiene Unit collaborated with the Bronx Borough President’s Office, the Bronx Dental Society, Dental Hygiene Association of NYC, Hispanic Dental Association-NY Chapter, our faculty, alumni, and our graduating seniors.

It was a tremendous opportunity for our students to treat children and connect with alumni, dental association members and other practicing dental hygienists.

By treating over 100 children, our graduating seniors were able to get a glimpse into the work environment of private or public dental care settings. The atmosphere and collaboration in the clinic was an incredible opportunity for the students’ clinical application of their dental hygiene studies at Hostos.

One student e-mailed me the following day stating, “Thank you very much for this opportunity and for allowing us to be a part of this awesome event. It was extremely fun and worth the time. Can’t wait for the next one to come.” Another student e-mailed:

“Thank you for this amazing experience, there is no description to express how I felt.”

“I hope to get a chance in the future to participate again.”

Moving forward, our Unit hopes to hold this event annually and expand the services to include dental care.

Mary Manning,  A.A.S., B.S., M.S., R.D.H., is an Assistant Professor and Senior Clinical Coordinator at Hostos Community College’s Dental Hygiene Unit.