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New Dental Hygiene grant will benefit elementary students

A dental hygiene student from the School of Dentistry checks the teeth of a preschooler at the Beatty Early Learning Center in Ypsilanti last year as part of the Smiles for a Lifetime program.

Ann Arbor, Mich., Jan. 9, 2018 -– First- and second-grade children at several Washtenaw County schools will receive expanded dental care thanks to a new national grant awarded to a faculty member at the School of Dentistry.

Darlene Jones, a clinical lecturer in the Dental Hygiene Department, received a $5,000 Wrigley Oral Health Community Service grant from the Institute for Oral Health, a foundation affiliated with the American Dental Hygienists Association, based in Chicago, Ill.

Jones wrote the grant proposal in order to expand an existing program, called Smiles for a Lifetime, which places School of Dentistry hygiene students in Head Start centers in collaboration with the Washtenaw Intermediate School District (WISD). Last year, dental hygiene students visited five of the centers where they evaluated more than 500 preschool children and applied fluoride varnish to help prevent tooth decay.

This year, Jones will be able to offer another preventative procedure, sealants, for children in the first and second grades, who are starting to get their first permanent molars, often called six-year molars. The molars will be treated with a sealant, which is a clear covering applied to the tooth to help prevent decay.  The Wrigley Oral Health Community Service grant will pay for new equipment to facilitate the process, including a portable suction unit and other dental equipment similar to what is used in dentist offices.

The Smiles for a Lifetime program is administered through the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services in collaboration with the WISD.  Michigan Public Act 161 certifies non-profits to organize dental hygienists to administer preventative services to those most in need of oral health care. The School of Dentistry Dental Hygiene Department has operated the program the last two years for low-income and at-risk children.  The program is funded by grants from the WISD and the dental school, so the cavity prevention procedures are free.

In addition to benefiting the children and their families, Jones said, the program allows hygiene students to gain valuable experience treating children. “This equipment will allow them to gain more experience placing sealants, serve our local community and increase their work with school-aged children,” Jones said. “And the children will be receiving a valuable preventative service at no cost.”

Details of this year’s expanded program, starting with the Ford and Perry Early Learning Centers in Ypsilanti, are still being worked out. Plans call for adding more schools in the future.


The University of Michigan School of Dentistry is one of the nation’s leading dental schools engaged in oral health care education, research, patient care and community service.  General dental care clinics and specialty clinics providing advanced treatment enable the school to offer dental services and programs to patients throughout Michigan.  Classroom and clinic instruction prepare future dentists, dental specialists, and dental hygienists for practice in private offices, hospitals, academia and public agencies.  Research seeks to discover and apply new knowledge that can help patients worldwide.  For more information about the School of Dentistry, visit us on the Web at:  Contact: Lynn Monson, associate director of communications, at, or (734) 615-1971.