Grant to continue dental sealant program in public schools | News, Sports, Jobs

A student receives care from a dental service provider. The Hawaii Dental Service Foundation has provided a $133,447 grant to help continue the Hawaii Keiki-HDS Dental Sealant Program that aims to provide local public school students with dental sealants, which help prevent cavities on permanent molars. Photo courtesy of UH

Hawaii Dental Service Foundation has provided a $133,447 grant to continue a public school dental sealant program that screened more than 650 students on Maui, Kauai and Oahu last school year, with two-thirds receiving dental sealants at no cost.

The Hawaii Keiki-HDS Dental Sealant Program was developed in 2019 to coordinate dental screenings and provide on-site dental sealants at high-need Title I public elementary schools, according to a news release from the University of Hawaii. Dental sealants help to prevent cavities on permanent molars, and the application of the sealants is quick, noninvasive and painless. Sealants are routinely applied by a dentist to keiki around second or third grade.

Children in Hawaii have among the highest rates of dental decay (cavities) in the nation with 71 percent of Hawaii’s third graders experiencing tooth decay, according to a 2015 state Department of Health report, which also found that 7 percent needed urgent dental car, as compared to the national rate of 1 percent. More than 60 percent of third graders in Hawaii did not have sealants on permanent molars.

The Hawaii Keiki-HDS Dental Sealant Program aims to increase the number of children who receive dental sealants. The program provides oral health assessments and dental sealants at no cost and brings licensed dentists and dental hygienists to the school to minimize students’ time away from class, according to the news release. Families of participating students receive assessment reports, referrals and oral care kits, and students who need urgent dental care receive referrals to community dental service providers.

During the last school year, the program screened 653 public school students at 28 schools on Maui, Kauai and Oahu, with 430 students, or about 66 percent, who received dental sealants. The screenings also identified 31 children who required urgent dental care.

The program will continue to screen more DOE students during the current school year.

“The schools and parents just love this program because we are providing safe and effective sealants to prevent future cavities,” said Deborah Mattheus, the Hawaii Keiki-HDS Dental Sealant Program director. “In addition to sealing teeth, we are screening students for urgent dental conditions and making referrals to get them immediate care. It is hard to learn if you have sore teeth. We are also teaching the kids about the importance of brushing and flossing daily.”

The dental sealant program is a partnership between the Hawaii Dental Service Foundation and Hawaii Keiki: Healthy and Ready to Learn, a collaboration between the UH-Manoa Nancy Atmospera-Walch School of Nursing and the state Department of Education. The Hawaii Keiki program aims to keep kids healthy and ready to learn by providing access to nursing services in public schools.

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