Smiling? A child’s play (not just for the young ones). The UniCamillus Oral Health Project kicks off, aimed at primary and middle school children in San Basilio

UniCamillus MSc Dentistry and Dental Prosthetics second-year students take on the challenge of giving good oral hygiene advice

Who’s scared of the dentist? Certainly not the students of the Istituto Comprensivo Nicolai! “They were over the moon to meet the Dentistry students from UniCamillus”, says Professor Gemma Stornelli, the school’s Headteacher.

On March 12th, the UniCamillus Prevention of Malocclusions and Oral-Functional Health Project kicked off, involving second-year Dentistry students and pupils from a different school in the San Basilio district each year. They were led by the Dean of the MSc Dentistry and Dental Prosthetics, Professor Francesca Klinger, and by two UniCamillus lecturers: Giuseppina Laganà and Roberta Lione.

There are 10 sessions in total, running until May 10th. The children engage in dialogue with UniCamillus aspiring dentists. They teach them the basics of good oral hygiene and, along with the lecturers, check their dental conditions – all completely free of charge. And the smiles – pun intended! – are there in abundance from both sides.

Already in its third edition, the project has been a resounding success in past years. The first edition took place in the 2021-2022 academic year at the Istituto Comprensivo Ennio Morricone in San Basilio; the second edition during the 2022-23 year at the Istituto Piero Angela, located near UniCamillus. This year, it involves around 600 primary and middle school children from the Istituto Nicolai.

“These types of initiatives are crucial”, states Headteacher Stornelli, “because, thanks to them, students today are far better informed on how to best manage health prevention, obviously within the confines of their tender age. It is our duty as educational professionals to foster their responsibility“.

Could health become a subject of study? “It already is, thanks to the crucial investment by the Ministry of Education and Merit in promoting the cross-disciplinary subject of Civic Education. Civic Education projects are aimed at addressing not just subjects like the Constitution and Digital Citizenship but also themes related to Sustainable Development and Health”. In these matters, nothing is left to chance! “Moreover, schools have a health representative who specifically plans educational and intervention strategies to help students not neglect one of the most important factors – well-being.

But it is not just the children learning from adults: Professor Laganà confirms this when discussing the project’s origins in the 2021-2022 academic year. The initiative started with Professor Paola Cozza, who involved Professor Lione and me to offer UniCamillus MSc Dentistry second-year students the chance to gain field experience”. It is a golden opportunity for both kids and students, who get to learn all the steps of a full clinical exam, both extraoral and intraoral, under the supervision of their lecturers.

For Laganà, like Stornelli, school is a fundamental space for learning self-care. “Children and teens spend most of their day at school, so these projects are a winning idea to keep spreading valuable information, correcting unhealthy habits, and getting a picture of the actual oral health conditions in the area. And the headteachers, in all editions, have always been key allies in achieving these goals”.

But what about parents? What can they do to carry on the educational task started in the classroom? “Parents are a role model for their children in dental prevention as well. So, before advising their children on what to do, it is essential to live a healthy life with them daily! It is only with a good example that children can automatically acquire good habits, without needing too much explanation”.