Boston University Establishes Varnish Outreach in Nicaragua



Michelle Henshaw, MPH, DDS, and student Henry Capezio of Boston University (BU) travelled to Estelí in Nicaragua this past Thanksgiving to implement a fluoride varnish program for the city’s preschoolers. The program will equip teachers at 12 different Estelí preschools with the knowledge and resources to improve oral health and apply fluoride varnish 4 times a year to 800 children younger than age 5.

“The teachers came in with note pads and were taking notes,” said Henshaw, a professor in the department of health policy and health services research and associate dean for global and population health. “They were just so eager and so thankful to be afforded the opportunity to learn about a technique to improve the oral health of their students.”

It was the third trip that BU has arranged to establish the program. The first trip helped the team narrow its focus on preschoolers with an eye on preventing tooth decay, while the second was used to evaluate the oral health of these children. During that trip, BU representatives found that 77% of children younger than age 5 had some tooth decay, while only 4 of the 465 students that they saw had received restorative treatment.

Henshaw and Capezio, a member of the BU Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine (GSDM) class of 2017, used their trip to visit 11 of the 12 selected schools and train 35 teachers in fluoride varnishing. By the end of the trip, each one of the 11 schools had at least one teacher certified in applying fluoride varnish.

The BU team explained the application procedure and then watched the teachers apply varnish to their students. After ensuring that the teachers could complete the application and that they understood adequate infection control protocols, Henshaw and Capezio gave them their certificates of competency.

All of the students who will be participating in the program got their first round of varnish during this training. In February, Henshaw and other GSDM representatives will return to Estelí to observe the second round of fluoride varnish applications.

“I would like to congratulate Nick Capezio, Dr. Michelle Henshaw, and everyone else in the GSDM and BU Medical Campus communities that are working toward making this program a success,” said the school’s dean, Jeffrey W. Hutter. “GSDM’s various international programs continue to grow and provide both excellent opportunities for our students and much needed dental care for vulnerable populations.”

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