BALTIMORE– Some West Baltimore middle school students had the chance to try their hand at dentistry Thursday at Planet Smilez Camp Discovering Dentistry Camp.
The week-long camp, held at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry, introduces students to the dental profession and teaches them how to take care of their own oral health.
“The Dentistry Discovery Camp is something I started when I was a freshman dental student here because I wanted to provide an opportunity for children in the community,” said graduate doctor Kathryn Pawlak. in 2019 from the school that founded the camp. and a non-profit organization called Planet Smilez, which is dedicated to oral education.
Pawlak was inspired to start the program by her grandfather, who had poor oral health and needed a full set of dentures at the age of 40 after lacking access to dental care then. that he was a prisoner of war during World War II.
“For me, access to prevention, access to the health science field, was something that I thought was really important,” Pawlak said.
Sixth, seventh and eighth graders at the camp spent the day performing dental procedures such as oral surgery and making fillings with plastic tooth molds.
“I learned new things about our teeth and learned what they use to make a seal,” said up-and-coming sixth grader Alexa Richardson.
Each of the camp’s students is part of the University of Maryland Baltimore’s CURE scholarship program, which aims to create a pipeline to careers in health care, science, and research for students attending partner schools in West Baltimore.
Partner schools include Green Street Academy, Southwest Baltimore Charter School, and Franklin Square Elementary/Middle School. The program is funded by the National Cancer Institute’s Continuing Research Experiments (CURE) umbrella.
The Planet Smilez camp is just one of many career areas the program exposes students to.
Pawlak said she hopes some of the students will be inspired to enter dentistry after attending.
“I would love to see, as academics graduate and go on to college,” she said. “I would love to see them come back and be students here.”
Students interested in getting involved in the CURE Scholars program can visit https://www.umaryland.edu/cure-scholars/ for more information on enrollment requirements.