Cara O'Conner and Kaylee Johnson, dental hygiene students at Iowa Central Community College, received a $2,464 mini-grant from Delta Dental of Iowa in January to conduct an oral health project in the community.
Their proposed project, called "Think Pink in the Oral Cavity," will be implemented March 5.
"It's a community project," O'Conner said. "We had to apply for a Delta Dental grant last semester. We applied for $3,200 or $3,400 and we ended up getting $2,400 from Delta Dental, and that will go toward our supplies we need for our community project."
The project focuses on dental care for people during and after chemotherapy and radiation therapy, O'Conner said. There will be a free oral screening and health presentation with free samples given away. The screening is open to the public.
The project is being done in collaboration with Trinity Regional Medical Center, Johnson said.
"We are trying to connect with the cancer society about their problems with their mouth, benefits they can use, some products that will make them feel more comfortable. Just giving them an educational seminar about the importance of oral hygiene and what it can do to benefit your overall outcome," she said. "We want to educate more of the community."
What: Think Pink in the Oral Cavity, free oral health screening
Who: Iowa Central Community College Dental Hygiene
Where: Trinity Regional Medical Center
When: 1 to 4 p.m. March 5
The screening is free and open to the public.
O'Conner's inspiration for the project was her mother's breast cancer and her hardships.
"My mom having breast cancer is what really triggered it," she said. "Seeing the type of, if you will, milestones she had to go through during her chemotherapy and radiation therapy - she ended up getting what's called thrush, or oropharyngeal candidiasis - in her mouth, and how we dealt with that."
Oral health is an important part of overall body health, O'Conner said.
"A lot of people aren't aware of the stuff that goes on in your mouth and how your mouth affects your health. If you have a problem going on in your mouth, it's systemic," she said. "A healthy mouth is a healthy overall health."
"We're promoting a healthy lifestyle," Johnson said. "People don't realize how much disease can connect to your mouth, and it can connect to other diseases in your overall body."
O'Conner said it also plays an important part in the cancer treatment process.
"If the person's mouth is not in ship-shape, they'll stop your chemotherapy right there and then," she said. "They won't allow you to go any further if you have a secondary infection going on."
At the free screening, nearly $200 worth of free samples will be distributed to the public. There will also be drawing for two power toothbrushes, O'Conner said.
"They're getting floss, toothbrushes, toothpaste, mouthwash, a Perio-Aid. There's a lot of stuff in there," she said. "And we'll demonstrate how to use every single thing in the care package."
Renee Piper said the project, an important part of their grant, is worthwhile and will great benefit both the students and the community.
"I think it's a great public service that they're offering people who are suffering through cancer therapy, and to remember that oral cancer and cancer are connected, and the oral cavity is a part of overall health," she said.
"We're excited to try and connect to the community and promote what's important," Johnson said.
"Hopefully there will be a good turnout," O'Conner said.
The free oral screening will take place March 5 at Trinity Regional Medical Center from 1 to 4 p.m.
Contact Brandon L. Summers at (515) 573-2141 or firstname.lastname@example.org