Ann Arbor, MI — May 15, 2015 — A graduate of the School of Dentistry’s Dental Hygiene Degree Completion E-Learning Program was recognized for her community dentistry initiative by the American Association of Public Health Dentistry during the organization’s recent national conference in Kansas City, Missouri.
Elisa Dack (BS 2014) was the second-place recipient of the Dental Hygiene Student Merit Award for Outstanding Achievement in Community Health Dentistry, for alerting residents and public officials in West Branch, Michigan, that the level of fluoride in the city’s water supply was below recommended standards. The city has a population of approximately 2,100 residents.
Dack said when she reviewed the city’s Annual Drinking Water Quality Reports from 2009 to 2013, “I learned that the average amount of fluoride was far below the recommended optimal amount of 0.7 parts per million,” she said.
To raise awareness among city officials and oral health care professionals, Dack conducted a fluoridation forum at an area library last May. She also developed pre- and post-forum surveys to assess how each group felt about the importance of fluoride in water supplies. “What surprised me was that no one could explain why the city was not providing the optimal amount of fluoride to its water supply even though it had the equipment and personnel to do so,” she said.
“This project was important to me because I often see children in pain from dental caries in the dental office of Dr. Jonathan Berns, where I practice dental hygiene,” Dack said. “I wanted to do something about that.”
Berns, Dack and Nichol Jenc, office administrator for Michigan Community Dental Clinics, spoke to the West Branch City Council during a meeting in March urging the city to return fluoride levels to the 0.7 ppm level. While no immediate action was taken, the city council did survey businesses and residents asking for their opinion. A meeting to discuss the results will be held in mid May.
“We are proud of Elisa for her commitment to public health dentistry and the special recognition she received from AAPHD,” said Janet Kinney, director of the school’s dental hygiene program. “I also want to acknowledge dental hygiene faculty members Jane Halaris and Anne Gwozdek for their mentorship and support throughout Elisa’s project.”