LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Silvestre Sanchez doesn't want his teeth to fall out or to have cavities.
On Friday, 8-year-old Silvestre, a third-grade student at Witt Elementary School, got a little help in keeping his teeth clean from dental-assistant students at Manatee Technical Institute. Friday's program, one of four held throughout the year, targeted migrant children in the Manatee County School District who do not receive routine dental care.
"It was fun," Sanchez said of the experience, which involved x-rays, an exam and a cleaning and a fluoride treatment. "They had a thing and they scrubbed your teeth."
The work Friday was performed by freshman and seniors in the MTI Dental Assisting program, and local doctors volunteered their time to help oversee the work as part of the Passport to Wellness Dental Project. Friday was one of two Passport to Wellness events being sponsored by Tropicana Products Inc. this year. The project is a joint effort of Manatee Tech and the School District of Manatee County Nurses and Migrant Program.
"My experience hasn't been huge with kids so far. It's a real neat feel," said 26-year-
old Danielle Zoeller, a senior in the program, as she cleaned and reset her station to see a new student Friday.
Working with students, some of whom had never been to the dentist before or had only seen a dentist because there was a problem, provided a new opportunity for the MTI students.
The students explained the tools and the process step-by-step, to try to make the children feel more comfortable.
Many of the students first used the toothbrush on the children's fingernails, to show them what it would feel like and to prove it wouldn't hurt them when they were cleaning their teeth.
"It's really important for us to be part of the community and providing services that are so needed," said Kimberly Bland, the dental assistant program director at MTI.
Bland said the if students in the classroom are in pain because of their teeth, they won't be able to concentrate properly.
"The mouth is the window to the body," Bland said, and added that often if there are issues with the teeth or the mouth, there may be issues elsewhere as well.
The students were not able to perform any serious procedures; Friday's appointments were only for routine checks. Tropicana provided transportation and lunch for the students.
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.