What is the
Dental Sealant and Prevention Program?
The dental sealant program provides
preventative dental sealants to school children in the second and sixth
grades at qualifying schools. A dentist, dental hygienist and dental
assistant travel to areas schools to screen children for tooth decay and
place dental sealants as needed. Starting in the fall of 2012, the
health department will also be offering 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
How does the Health Departmentís
dental sealant and prevention program work?
The dental program has three parts:
education/consent, examination by a dentist and then the placement of
the sealants, a dental cleaning, and fluoride varnish application
by a dental hygienist.
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 childrenís parents to review and sign, and then return back
to the school.
A volunteer dentist will see those
children whose parents have given permission. The dentist will examine
their teeth for signs of decay, and direct the hygienist as to which
teeth need sealants. If the dentist finds signs of decay, the school
nurse will refer the child to a dentist in their area.
Over the next week, the hygienist
will place sealants on the childrenís 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
How effective are sealants and
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% of cavities from starting on the side surfaces and in between
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 sealant
typically placed on the 6-year and 12-year molars, soon after they
erupt. The Health Departmentís dental program will screen children in
the second and sixth grades, the time when the molars typically erupt.
Schools must request the sealant
program. Only those schools in Boone, Campbell, Kenton and Grant
counties with at least 35 percent of students eligible for free or
reduced-priced lunches may participate.
In order for a child to have his/her
teeth sealed, he/she must bring back a signed consent form from a parent
What is the dentistís role in the
A local dentist examines the
childrenís teeth for signs of decay on the first morning of the sealant
program. He or she will then dictate which teeth need to be sealed to
the hygienist, and the hygienist will then place the sealants.
Dentists who participate in the
program must accept Medicaid. Each dentist is asked to adopt three
schools. The dentists typically spend two hours in each school, and
dentists are asked to commit approximately six hours of their time.
What kind of equipment is used?
The sealant program has portable
equipment like what you would find in a typical dentistís 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 sealant 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 and there is no further cost to those families.
Children who are not covered by
Medicaid--whether they have private dental insurance or not Ė by law
have to be charged the same amount that Medicaid reimburses. However,
all fees can slide downward based on family income and size. No child is
denied treatment because of an inability to pay. Providing these
necessary services is the Health Departmentís highest priority
regardless of insurance coverage
How many children have dental
In a 2001 survey, the Kentucky
Department for Public Health and the University of Kentucky found that
30 percent of third and sixth graders in the northern region (Boone,
Kenton, Campbell, Grant, Carroll, Owen, Pendleton, Bracken, Robertson,
Mason, Fleming and Lewis counties) had dental sealants. Many of these
children may have received the sealants from their private dentist.
In the state
of Kentucky, 29.1 percent of third and sixth graders had sealants.
Where can I get more information on
dental health or the dental sealant program?
If you are interested in learning
more about the dental sealant and prevention program, please contact
Linda Poynter at 859.341.4264, ext. 2035.
For more information about dental
health online, visit the following sites:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Oral Health Resources
American Academy of
of Public Health Dentistry
Kentucky Oral Health Program