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Dental Prevention Program

What is the dental sealant program?
What is a dental sealant?
How are dental sealants applied?
How does the Health Department’s Dental Prevention Program work?
Are the sealants visible?
How long do sealants last?
How effective are sealants and fluoride?
Who is eligible for the program?
What is the dentist’s role in the program?
What kind of equipment is used?
How is the program funded?
Where can I get more information?

What is the Dental Prevention Program?
The Dental Prevention Program provides preventative dental sealants to school children in most elementary grades at qualifying schools. The Health Department's public health dental hygienist and dental assistant travel to area schools to screen children for tooth decay and place dental sealants as needed. The Health Department also offers dental cleanings and fluoride varnish applications for each student.

What is a dental sealant?
A dental sealant is a thin plastic coating that is applied to chewing surfaces of the molars, or back teeth that are difficult to reach with a toothbrush. Molars have pits and fissures where food can get stuck, in turn making molars more susceptible to cavities. By applying dental sealants to fill in the pits and fissures the risk of decay is decreased.

How are dental sealants applied?
Applying dental sealants is a simple process that only takes a few minutes and can be done by a dental hygienist. The tooth is cleaned, dried off, and then the sealant is painted on. It takes about a minute for the sealant to dry and begin offering protection.

A dental hygienist and assistant apply dental sealantsHow does the Health Department’s Dental Sealant Program work?
The dental program has three parts: education/consent, a visual dental screening by a public health dental hygienist and then the placement of the sealants, a dental cleaning, and fluoride varnish application.

About three weeks before the students are to be examined, a dental hygienist or a dental assistant will present an educational program to the children about tooth decay and the need for sealants. A packet of information and consent forms is sent home for the children’s parents to review and sign, and then return back to the school.

Over the next week, the dental hygienist will conduct a visual screening and then place sealants on the children’s teeth. The process only takes a few minutes, requires no drilling, no shots and is painless. The hygienist cleans the tooth, rinses it and then paints the sealant on. It takes about a minute for the sealant to harden to form a protective shield, much like a helmet that football players wear to protect their heads from injury. A dental cleaning and fluoride application will then be done for those whose parents have consented.

Are the sealants visible?
Sealants are usually clear, white or slightly tinted and are placed only on the chewing surface of molars or back teeth. They can be seen upon close examination, but are not visible when a child smiles or talks.

How long do sealants last?
One sealant application can last for up to 10 years, but they should be checked during regular visits to the dental office.

How effective are sealants and fluoride?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children who receive sealants in school-based programs have 60 percent fewer instances of decay for up to five years after the sealants are applied. Regular fluoride treatments can prevent up to 70 percent of cavities from starting on the side surfaces and in between the teeth.

School-based sealant programs provide sealants to children unlikely to receive them otherwise. According to the CDC, children of racial and ethnic minorities have about three times more untreated tooth decay.

Who is eligible for the program?
Schools must request the sealant program. Only those schools in Boone, Campbell, Kenton and Grant counties with at least 45 percent of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunches may participate. Preventative dental screenings will be provided to children in all grades at participating schools.Sealants are typically placed on the 6-year and 12-year molars, soon after they erupt.

In order for a child to have his/her teeth sealed, he/she must bring back a signed consent form from a parent or guardian.

What is the dentist’s role in the program?
Our local dentists are a large part of our program. All children seen are referred back to their own dentist, or Health Department staff will help find a dentist if the family does not have one already. The Health Department works closely with local dentists to ensure that all children receive needed dental treatment and find a dental home.

What kind of equipment is used?
The sealant program has portable equipment like what you would find in a typical dentist’s office, including a chair, light, autoclave, air/water and suction machine.

The equipment is transported to each school, and set up where space permits on the first day of sealants. The equipment is left in place until the sealants have been finished.

All equipment and instruments are properly disinfected and sterilized by the dental assistant. Sterilization of instruments will take place in a dry heat sterilizer.

How is the program funded?
Funding comes from the Kentucky Department for Public Health, local health department funds and Medicaid reimbursement, as well as fees. The Health Department bills Medicaid for those who are eligible.

Children who are not covered by Medicaid may sometimes have to pay a fee for dental services. However, grant funding from the Kentucky Department for Public Health and the United Way of Greater Cincinnati is used to help reduce costs for children not covered by Medicaid and keep charges to the family to a minimum. Each service has a maximum fee of $5 and because of a change in Kentucky Department for Public Health policy, most costs will slide downward to $0, depending on family size and income. No child is denied treatment because of an inability to pay. Providing these necessary services is the Health Department’s highest priority regardless of insurance coverage or finances. 

Where can I get more information on the Dental Prevention Program?
If you are interested in learning more, please contact Linda Poynter.

For more information about dental health online, visit the following sites:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Oral Health Resources
American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry
American Association of Public Health Dentistry
American Dental Association
American Dental Hygienists' Association
Kentucky Oral Health Program
Kentucky Youth Advocates: Children's Dental Health Access in Kentucky

Sources: Northern Kentucky Health Department, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2001 Kentucky Children’s Oral Health Profiles