Brushing up on good hygiene

Mary Majewski '86 and Jennifer Clarke '91 really know their audience. Of course, they have been working with this audience for more than 20 years. Majewski and Clarke, employees with Watkins & Medura Family and Cosmetic Dental Center in Dallas, PA, visit more than 20 schools, day cares, and Head Start programs every year speaking on proper oral hygiene care. Together, they have entertained 10,000 children with their oversized animal puppets and huge toothbrushes while teaching them about good food choices and how to keep their smiles healthy for a lifetime. "When you wake up in the morning, how do your teeth feel?" Clarke asks the children. Hands would immediately fly into the air, some waving frantically. Clarke picks a young girl in the second row. "They feel fuzzy and sticky," she belts out proudly. "That's plaque," Clarke points out. "That's what we need to brush off our teeth to avoid cavities." Majewski and Clarke then pull out the sugar charts, asking the kids how much sugar is in many of the soft drinks and snacks the consume every day. "A can of soda has ten spoons of sugar in it," Mary explains as she holds a sign with ten plastic spoons glued on it. "That's like taking a spoon and dipping it into a sugar bowl ten times and putting it into your mouth." The pair then show a short film about good dental health and hand out goody bags filled with toothbrushes, toothpaste, stickers, and other items to the children. "We do send them home with a lot of information about proper brushing techniques," Clarke says. Young students used to come to Watkins and Medura's dental office for the dental hygiene lesson. But as it started to become more and more popular, Clarke and Majewski took their show on the road. "This year we're up to 800 kids," Majewski exclaims. "And we have schools calling here left and right because the word gets out about us doing this." The duo visit up to twenty schools around National Children's Dental Health Month in February, sometimes seeing multiple classes at each school. A graduate of Wyoming Valley West High School, Majewski continued her education at Luzerne County Community College, graduating in 1980 with a Certificate of Specialization in Dental Assisting and also in 1986 with her Associates Degree in Dental Business Assisting. She is a licensed expanded functions dental assistant (EFDA) and has been working at Watkins and Medura since 1980. Majewski is also responsible for the ordering of all dental supplies for the office. "I've never worked anywhere else," Majewski says. "Jennifer and I are definitely lifers here." Clarke was first employed by Drs. Watkins and Medura as a dental hygiene assistant while attending the dental hygiene program at Luzerne where she was named to the Sigma Phi Alpha Dental Hygiene Honor Society. She was also the recipient of the Clarke Hollister Community Dental Health Award. Clarke says they deal with many students coming to the office through LCCC. "A lot of the people that work here in this office came here as students," she says. "It?s kind of neat that we?re still real involved with the dental program at main campus." "I always liked going to the dentist," Clarke says. "Dr. Watkins has been my dentist since I was three years old. I always liked the health field and had nice teeth. I wanted something where I could make a good living in this area. My mother was a nurse, and I debated between dental hygiene and nursing. I decided I didn?t want to work holidays, so that is why I chose dental hygiene. LCCC offered an incredible program that was affordable for me." Majewski agrees. "I had to pay for college myself," she says. "LCCC was affordable; the clinic and set up at Luzerne really help prepare students as to what to expect in a real dental office setting." Although a large part of being a dental hygienist is cleaning teeth of patients, it's also about helping them feel comfortable with cleanings and procedures. "When I'm working with patients needing fillings and crowns and things," Clarke says, "they are a nervous wreck about numbing the gums and horror stories about root canals. My biggest thing is talking them through the procedure and making them feel comfortable. They look at you at the end of the procedure and say thank you so much for getting me through that. It?s gratifying to see. " Nodding her head, Majewski says you have to be a people person to do this kind of job. "This can be a lifelong career. Plus, we have fun by getting out in the community and working with kids. My husband looked at me one day and asked 'have you ever really stepped back and looked at what you and Jen have done for the community, and for these kids? You might be the first ones that have ever really talked to them about keeping their teeth healthy. It?s cool."