Experiencing Oral Health “At-Large” in South Dakota

My name is Jenna McDermaid, and I am currently a student at the University of South Dakota in the Master of Public Health program. I began my journey into health sciences in 2010 when I completed the Dental Assisting Program at Lake Area Technical Institute in my home town of Watertown, SD. I then worked for two years with Children’s Dental Center in Sioux Falls as a certified dental assistant.

After two years, I decided to further my education and began at USD in the Dental Hygiene Program, culminating in a Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene in 2015. The subsequent fall semester I began the MPH program at USD, which is where I was able to interact with Delta Dental of South Dakota. I was taking a practicum course that involved working in a public health setting, and Delta Dental seemed like the perfect organization due to their prominent position within the state of South Dakota and oral health.

Promoting oral health during Zoo Boo at the Great Plains Zoo.

Throughout my experience with Delta Dental of South Dakota, I had the chance to collaborate with many great people through many different programs. I was able to work with the various staff members on the mobile dental trucks as they performed preventive oral healthcare for local children; I visited numerous local elementary schools and assisted with oral health screenings and preventive care; I helped with local events and conferences, such as the Physician’s Assistant conference in Sioux Falls and handing out toothbrushes at the Great Plains Zoo’s Zoo Boo event; and I was able to help prepare handouts for other local events, among other great opportunities.  These were all great experiences because they allowed me to see the many different areas of oral healthcare in which public health professionals can take part. I was able to have hands on experience doing many of the different tasks that I hope to be performing some day in the near future.

These experiences even allowed me to see things of which I was fully unaware. One instance in particular was of a high-school-aged girl who came to the mobile dental truck for a dental exam and cleaning, during which the dentist found severe decay on multiple teeth, which would require multiple visits to address. She came the following two days right at the end of the school day or shortly after school let out.

These two days, the staff on the dental truck gave her a ride home after finding out how difficult it was for her to get home each day. In order for her to get home each day she took a school bus downtown. There, she waited at the city bus stop and took a city bus to another stop nearer her home, followed by a walk home from there. In total, she said this process takes about two hours after school each day, also indicating that a similar process is required for her to get to school each morning. It was amazing to me that someone who has to invest so much time to get to and from school each day was still willing to take even more time out of her day to receive the care that she very much needed, but that so many others seem to neglect. With so much time needed for this trip, it is clear that this mobile dental truck being readily available to her is providing a much needed service that she may otherwise not receive.

I am very appreciative of having the opportunity to work with Delta Dental of South Dakota, specifically Jean Gross, Connie Halverson, and the various Delta Dental employees that I was able to meet throughout my practicum course. I have had many great experience during this time that I will definitely remember and take with me in my future as a public health professional.

Jenna (left) with DDSD Regional Educator Jean Gross

Note: Jenna was invited to share her experiences on the DDSD blog following her practicum study during the fall semester. Opinions expressed by guest bloggers are their own and do not represent views of Delta Dental of South Dakota.