Healthy Smiles, Happy Teens:

a Community-based Education Project 

Partnering with several local high school teachers, "Healthy Smiles, Happy Teens” aims to form a bridge between the local education system and the dental profession. In speaking with directors at the Washtenaw County Health Department, we learned that there is an increasing need for oral health education and care in adolescents compared to other age groups. Teens in Michigan are still eligible for free Medicaid dental coverage but may have difficulty accessing care or may lack the oral health knowledge since this type of education is usually aimed at younger children. Many habits developed during adolescence persist through adulthood and can have a large effect on oral health. In addition, this age group may be beginning to develop ideas about their future careers and this project also aims to provide information about the field of dentistry.  


Our project aims to show how daily habits affect a person's oral health, teach students how to properly care for their teeth and minimize harm, and to plant the seed that inspires students to consider pursuing a career in dentistry.


In June 2018, "Healthy Smiles, Happy Teens" launched a pilot visit to a health class at Ypsilanti Community Middle School and several visits to a health class at Ypsilanti STEMM Middle College. Both schools are considered low-performing, with regard to test scores (Math, Reading, and SAT), ranking well below average in Michigan and minority students representing 65% and 75% of the student body respectively. Responses were positive as survey data showed that students not only enjoyed our hands-on seminar, but reported learning new information about their oral health, as well as careers in dentistry.


“Healthy Smiles, Happy Teens” is planning several additional class presentations throughout the 2018-19 academic year with expanding topics relating dentistry to the material covered in class. In the future, we hope to collaborate with other health professions schools at the University of Michigan to organize a “Health Conference” that encompasses the many fields of health care and allows students to learn more about each health field and about the journey to a career in health care.

Status: Trial Semester
Sarah Bettag
Vince Labinpuno
Kristen Lehner                  
Shernel Thomas

Pictures from class presentations!

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