Students at O.W. Dillon were all smiles Thursday as they hopped into the dentist chair and had their teeth checked by Dr. Ross DeNicola, a semi-retired dentist of Baton Rouge who volunteers to help children learn proper oral hygiene.

“We want to screen for problems that would prevent them from (doing) their school work,” said DeNicola, who volunteers with the Department of Health and Hospitals Louisiana Seals Smiles School-Based Dental Sealant Program.

The bus, equipped with two dental chairs, travels throughout Louisiana visiting schools with at-risk students.

The New Orleans-based dental bus made its first stop at O.W. Dillon and has visited one other school, Chesborough, in Tangipahoa Parish three years ago, said Jennifer Carona, interim head nurse for the Tangipahoa Parish School System.

More than 120 children from the school were checked for cavities, provided sealants if needed and taught the proper way of brushing their teeth during the bus stop.

The event was coordinated by the school’s nurse Suzanne Robinson and licensed practical nurse Amber Easley. According to its website, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals Oral Health Program supports programs designed to identify younger children who will benefit from the placement of pit and fissure sealants on their permanent molar teeth. The program provides a dental screening, classroom and individual education on oral hygiene and sealants, information on oral health and sealants for parents, and appropriate referrals for children who need restorative or emergency care.

“I’m very pleased at what I’m seeing today,” Robinson said. “Tomorrow (Friday), children who meet the criteria for sealants will receive them.”

On Friday, those children were seen — at no cost — by two oral hygienists, Robinson said.

“They checked my teeth, and I have four cavities,” said third-grader Tanaya Diamond, 8.

She said the process was fast and easy and reconfirmed what she already knew about the four cavities. Tanaya said she was just glad they didn’t find more.

“They teach you how to take care of your teeth by brushing them,” said Tanaya’s twin sister, third-grader Tamaya Diamond, 8.

Tamaya said she plans to continue her routine of brushing her teeth twice a day to avoid future cavities.

“I learned that you’re not supposed to eat a lot of candy,” said third-grader Deziah Dunn, 8, just after Halloween when it’s difficult for many children to resist the temptation of free treats. “You’re not supposed to suck on your thumb, and you’re supposed to brush your teeth twice a day.”

For third-grader Kierra Venible, 8, the biggest lesson was to use mouth wash twice a day.

“You have to make sure to keep your mouth clean,” Kierra said, adding that she must visit the dentist after learning she has two cavities.

Carona said she hopes the program can be expanded to aid students in other schools throughout the parish.

To learn about the program, visit http://new.dhh.louisiana.gov/assets/oph/Center-PHCH/oralhealth/LouisianaDentalSealantProgramManual.pdf.

To schedule an appointment, call the Oral Health Program at (225) 342-7804 or email anna.wanko@la.gov.