Programs & Initiatives in Schools
Dental Sealant Program
A child’s oral health is fundamentally tied to both overall health as well as his or her academic success. That’s why the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) works to prevent dental diseases through policy work, guidance, and support that contributes to preventive solutions.
One goal of the MDH Oral Health Program is to develop an evidence-based statewide, coordinated school-based dental sealant program that targets schools serving children from lower-income families.
Dental sealants are a thin plastic coating that, when applied properly to the chewing surfaces of molar teeth – not the entire tooth, protect against tooth decay and cavities. A smooth chewing surface helps protect the tooth from decay by making it easier to clean with a toothbrush, and keeping food and germs out.
While dental sealants have been available in dental offices for decades, a recent MDH survey found third graders in the schools serving mostly higher-income families were 1.5 times more likely to be protected by dental sealants compared with students in schools serving mostly lower-income families.
One proven strategy for reaching children and adolescents at high risk for oral disease is through school-based programs that build connections with community-based oral health professionals. School-based dental sealant programs provide dental sealants onsite at schools using portable dental equipment.
In Minnesota, school-based sealant programs are most often coordinated by dental hygienists who hold a collaborative agreement with a Minnesota licensed dentist1.
- So You Want to be a Public Health Dental Hygienist? Working In a School Setting (Video) – Massachusetts Department of Public Health
These programs are models for improving access to oral health education, prevention and treatment services for children and adolescents who are from families with low incomes or who are at high risk for oral disease. When preventive dental services are provided at school – a place where students spend a large part of their week – barriers to care like transportation and parents needing to take time off of work are reduced.
School-based dental sealant programs, a preventive measure recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Community Guide, are based on strong evidence of effectiveness in preventing tooth decay among children. School-based programs increase the number of children who receive sealants, resulting in a large reduction in tooth decay among children 5 to 16 years of age.
In 2016, the Minnesota Department of Health hosted the Smiles@School Oral Health Summit: Inter-connecting Children’s Oral Health and Learning, where the presenters focused on:
- Supporting children’s oral health and relating oral health to overall health and academic success
- Policies and practices for incorporating or expanding oral health and dental sealant programs
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child model.
Find the recording of the Smiles@School Summit at this link Oral Health Seminar.
To learn more about becoming part of Minnesota’s school-based dental sealant program and building connections with local oral health professionals, contact Clare Larkin, MDH Prevention Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651.201.4230.
- MN Public Health Data Access – More about Oral Health Status: Tooth Decay (Children) and Oral Health Status: Dental Sealants (Children)
- Evidence-based Clinical Practice Guideline for the Use of Dental Sealants (August 2016)
- Seal America: The Prevention Invention, Third Edition, 2016
- Seal in a Smile – This video for children addresses the importance of dental sealants.
- Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child Integrating Oral Health with a Best Practice Approach
1MN Statute 150A.10, subd. 1a Limited Authorization for Dental Hygienists https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=150A.10