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National Museum of Dentistry promotes dental careers, fun during school field trips

March 14, 2017

Future dentists: Dr. Richard Manski, executive director of the Dr. Samuel D. Harris National Museum of Dentistry, engages with students during a field trip. The museum hopes to inspire dental careers. Photos courtesy of University of Maryland, Baltimore
Baltimore — The Dr. Samuel D. Harris National Museum of Dentistry has a lot of fun exhibits to explore: George Washington’s dentures, a wax figure of Dr. G.V. Black, a narwhal’s tusk.

But a new partnership with the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and Baltimore City Public Schools aims to give its youngest visitors even more: the genuine prospect of a dental career.

“Traditionally, children visit the museum to have fun and get excited about caring for their teeth,” said Dr. Richard Manski, executive director of the museum and professor and chair of Dental Public Health at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry. “We want to reach these future dental professionals early in order to encourage them to look forward to and appreciate their STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) classes and aspire to health careers. As an added plus, we’ll be promoting good oral health.”

Cool teeth: University of Maryland School of Dentistry student Michelle Tarr discusses George Washington’s false teeth with students from Calvin M. Rodwell Elementary School in Baltimore.
To accomplish this, the museum is hosting field trips for hundreds of Baltimore-area elementary, middle and high school students. During their visits, the children have the opportunity to interact with the larger-than-life teeth positioned to encourage proper brushing and flossing and also take in exhibits showing the perils of tobacco use or other consequences of unhealthy choices. The children also learn about teeth and their role in sports, famous celebrity smiles, animal teeth like the narwhal and the evolution of dental tools.

“These are things that we can’t see in a video,” said Maryann Kolarek, a teacher at Calvin M. Rodwell Elementary School.

One of Ms. Kolarek’s 7-year-old students wasn’t impressed by the ancient dental tools but left with a positive view on the profession itself: “Being a dentist is cool,” she said.

Field trip: Two second graders try out one of the interactive exhibits at the National Museum of Dentistry.
“We want the students to realize that they can actually become dentists, dental hygienists and one day help take care of other people's teeth as well as their own,” said Dr. Scott Swank, the museum’s curator and a assistant professor in the school’s department of dental public health.

Katy Battani a dental hygienist and director of the Maryland health department’s Perinatal & Infant Oral Health Quality Improvement Program, called the initiative a “tremendous opportunity” to communicate the importance of oral health.

The University of Maryland School of Dentistry is the oldest dental school in the world. Many of the museum’s artifacts come from the collection of the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery, the UMSD’s predecessor, founded in 1840.

For more information, visit To watch a video of the Calvin M. Rodwell Elementary School’s visit to the museum, click here.