Carleton College Dental Health Service

Carleton Makes Dental Health Education Part of College Course

Students Get Complete Diagnostic Service and Explanations;

Go to Own Practitioner for Work; System to be

Extended to Northfield High School

By Robert Thompson


                Following a new type of dental health education, which develops a new consciousness of the value and care in college students, a Middle Western college has developed an idea that may extend to college and high school students everywhere.

The new system of dental health education points out to the students the defects in their own oral health, shares the way to a remedy, stresses the value of personal oral care during youth, and yet, send the young men and women out to their dentists for treatment, avoiding any restorative service in the college itself.

The value of periodical dental examinations also is clearly demonstrated to the students, by the fact that they submit to such examinations regularly in the college.

The institution is Carleton college, at Northfield, Minn. The dental education program is carried on through its dental health service, which is an integral position of its general health service.

Complete Consulting and Diagnostic Service at Carleton

It is a complete consulting and diagnostic service, which is given the student as a part of his regular curriculum, each year for the four years of college. And though it affords a checkup which student in many cases, would not otherwise obtain, it leaves him in exactly the same relationship to his dentists than he was previously—except that he is completely conscious of his need for treatment.

Findings have been amazing to the dentists working there. consider these statistics compiled after examination of the 682 students at the college for the school year 1934-1955:

Figure Reveal Lack of Dental Attention

Average number of cavities per student                                                               4.2

Cavities found without x-ray                                                                      1,862

Additional cavities found with x-ray                                                       1,013

Total number of pulpless teeth                                                                                97

Total number of abscessed teeth                                                             33

Total number of missing teeth                                                                  931

Total number of unerupted teeth                                                            1,216

Total number of impacted teeth                                                              61

Total number of teeth recommended for extraction                      145

Total number of new fillings since last examination                       982

Average number of new fillings per student treated since

last examination                                                                              23


With such conditions existent among a group of students, most of whom come from homes where competent and adequate dental service can well be afforded, it is felt that a service of this type should be rendered in high schools instead of waiting until college age.

Dr. Donald J. Cowling, president of Carleton college, after a series of consultations with Dr. William A. Grey of St. Paul, asked Dr. Grey to head it, and the service was begun. It now has an examination room; an x-ray room with proper lead screen protection for the operator; an office for the assistant; space for developing; and a room for mounting, reading, preparing and recording diagnoses, and filing them.

The dental health service at Carleton college was launched as a part of the general health service, in January, 1931, but was reorganized in the fall of 1932 into the beginnings of its present form. The only changes since have been those additions to the service found by experience to be beneficial.

Working with Dr. Grey in the dental health service are dentists of Northfield, who spend about two hours a week each. An understanding has been reached under which these men carry on their work without influencing students in any way to go to them for treatment.

Illustrated Lectures Given to Freshman Class

The dental health educational work is begun each year by an illustrated lecture to the entire freshman class. Characteristics and values of a healthy mouth are carefully explained and illustrated and similar explanations are made regarding the menace of dental ills. Preventive rather than curative factors are stressed. After this lecture, routine work of the service begins.

Each college year, each student has at least two appointments. At the first appointment, a full set of radiograms, fourteen films, is taken. At the second appointment, all cavities or other defects which can be seen or found clinically are carefully recorded. A recheck of the clinical findings is made with the radiograms, and a final diagnosis prepared.

The educational value of the work is always foremost in all consultations with students. Enough time is taken with each student at the time of examination to explain the defects thoroughly, and also their importance. Any other conditions discovered in the student’s mouth are explained to him, not only from the standpoint of a healthy mouth, but from that of general health as well. questions are carefully answered.

When the student finishes with his examination and consultation, he is reminded to call and obtain his radiograms and take them to his dentist. A duplicate set is kept in the permanent files of the dental health service. We now have classes graduating in which there is a complete record of four annual sets of x-rays and diagnoses.

On the x-ray mounting, there is written for the benefit of the student’s dentist, the diagnosis made in the dental health service, and special recommendations when it is felt that these are in order. The dentists in the health service very seldom knows who the student’s dentist is, therefore he can render an absolutely or elsewhere, the dentists make themselves known to those who work in the dental health service.

Abscessed and pulpless teeth are considered as potential foci of infection. Definitely abscessed teeth are recommended for removal unless there is a good possibility of restoring them to a completely healthy condition. At the suggestion of Dr. C.H. Mayo and Dr. E.C. Rosenow of the Mayo Clinic, the medical health service is consulted concerning students having pulpless teeth, or any other condition in the mouth liable to be a focus of infection.

The medical and dental records of the examined students are compared and from the two a final diagnosis is prepared as it relates to the general health of the student. The medical health service is also consulted when any condition is found in the mouth which is evidence of any systemic ill health. There has been splendid cooperation in this regard.

Large cystic formations, involving extensive destruction of the jaw bone, were found in the mouths of some of the students. These conditions were serious, and if they had not been discovered, might have caused irreparable damage.

Before a recommendation is made for any extraction, careful consideration is given to the student’s general health, and also to the preservation of the dental arch.

It is the policy of the college health service to stress to students, that had they realized the importance of tooth preservation and mouth health earlier in life, and proper care taken, many of the missing or defective teeth would still be sound.

Dr. Grey states, “By impacted teeth, in these statistics, we mean teeth that are definitely impacted with no likelihood of eruption. They are likely to cause neuralgia, inflammations of surrounding tissues extending back into the throat region, and injuries to adjacent teeth. Accordingly, we have recommended removal of almost all of this type of teeth.

“By unerupted teeth we mean those teeth that have not erupted and come into their position in the arch.”

No Restorative Work Done at the Department

“After 5 years of experience we have been thoroughly convinced that maintaining only diagnostic and educational work in the college dental health service makes by far the best plan of operation.

“Our judgment is that where restorative work has been placed in an institution, the individual educational work with the student has been neglected. From the standpoint of the dental profession, the diagnostic service, we feel, has stimulated the dentists who have come in contact with the students’ reports or have become thoroughly informed of our work.”

“We have always made it a point, when we found good dental work in a student’s mouth, to commend it, without inquiring who did it.”

“Our main concern has been to gain the interest and cooperation of the students themselves. It is our opinion, as well as that of the dean of the college, that their (the students’) attitude is one of cooperation and appreciation. It has been very gratifying to see the amount of work recommended by the dental health service which has been actually carried out for students by their dentists between yearly examinations.”

“A feature of the dental health service added since it was organized is examination of all food handlers who work in the college. A large percentage of the students are dormitoried at the college, and take meals there. When examinations for all employees handling food were first suggested, there was some objection. Since the examinationswere undertaken, however, the help has joined in cooperation and it is very gratifying this year to find all the food handlers’ mouths in splendid condition from the standpoint of health, and have carried out a large amount of dental work recommended by the dental health service.”

No intensive studies of the records compiled in the dental health service has thus far been possible because of lack of time. Such a study will begin as soon in the future as it can be arranged, in order to chart the course of the students’ dental history through their college years.

Addition to the dental health service of high school students in their last two years would add to the records a careful chart of the course of dental health through six important years of life.

Tentative plans are now under way, for a short course of study for dentists who are interested in instituting a school educational unit in their community. This study will consume a week, and will be offered at Carleton College if sufficient demand for it develops. The course would be given in June, for a week following the closing of the regular college classes. Dentists taking it could be housed in the college dormitories at a very nominal cost and also could obtain meals there. Any interested may communicate with Dr. Grey at Carleton college, Northfield, Minn.