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dental service provider checking on student
A student receives dental care from a dental service provider.

Children in Hawaiʻi have among the highest rates of dental decay (cavities) in the nation with 71% of Hawaiʻi’s third graders experiencing tooth decay, according to a 2015 State Department of Health report. The report found that 7% needed urgent dental care, as compared to the national rate of 1%. Also, more than 60% of third graders in Hawaiʻi did not have sealants on permanent molars.

Hawaii Dental Service (HDS) Foundation has provided a $133,447 grant to continue the Hawaiʻi Keiki-HDS Dental Sealant Program, a public school program that screened more than 650 children during the last school year, two-thirds of whom received dental sealants at no-cost. The program is funded through a partnership between the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s Nancy Atmospera-Walch School of Nursing (NAWSON) and the Hawaiʻi State Department of Education (HIDOE).

With the support of HDS Foundation, Hawaiʻi Keiki school nurses, dentists and dental hygienists are improving oral and overall health of students. The program will continue to screen more HIDOE students during this new school year.

Our Hawaiʻi Keiki program is uniquely positioned to provide direct services to public school students
—Clementina Ceria-Ulep

Developed in 2019, the Hawaiʻi Keiki-HDS Dental Sealant Program is proactively working to increase the number of children who receive dental sealants. The program coordinates dental screenings and provides on-site dental sealants at high-need Title I public elementary schools. Dental sealants help to prevent cavities on permanent molars, and the application of sealants is quick, non-invasive and painless. Sealants are routinely applied by a dentist to keiki around second or third grade.

The Hawaiʻi Keiki: Healthy & Ready to Learn program’s overall mission is to keep keiki healthy and ready to learn by providing access to school nursing services in Hawaiʻi’s public schools.

“We are pleased to continue our partnership with HDS Foundation to collaboratively improve oral health and overall health across the state,” said Clementina Ceria-Ulep, interim dean at NAWSON. “Our Hawaiʻi Keiki program is uniquely positioned to provide direct services to public school students.”

“HDS is proud to support this important sealant program to safeguard the oral health of HIDOE students,” said Diane Paloma, president and CEO of Hawaii Dental Service. “Increasing access to dental care in schools helps families establish good oral health habits now to ensure their children have a lifetime of healthy smiles.”

Bringing oral assessments to schools

The Hawaiʻi Keiki-HDS Dental Sealant Program provides oral health assessments and dental sealants at no-cost and brings licensed dentists and dental hygienists to the school to minimize student’s time away from class. 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.

dental care provider

“The schools and parents just love this program because we are providing safe and effective sealants to prevent future cavities,” said Deborah Mattheus, Hawaiʻi 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.”

In the last school year, the program screened 653 public school students at 28 schools on Oʻahu, Maui and Kauaʻi, with 430 students, or about 66%, who received dental sealants. Additionally, the screenings identified 31 children who required urgent dental care.

“We’re grateful for the significant role HDS Foundation plays as a community partner for UH Mānoa NAWSON, Hawaiʻi Keiki and the Hawaiʻi Department of Education,” said Tim Dolan, UH vice president of advancement and CEO of the UH Foundation. “Mahalo to HDS Foundation for supporting this critical preventive service for Hawaiʻi’s keiki.”

dental service providers
Hawaiʻi Keiki-HDS Dental Sealant Program team at Waialua Elementary School.
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