Donation makes expansion of school-based sealant program a reality

Published: Monday, Feb. 4 2013 12:20 a.m. MST

Adams, a former oral surgeon who personally examines each individual child, said the program has been able to visit an average of 50 schools each year. But without Wednesday's donation, only second- and sixth-grade students can be seen or treated. Typically the first and second sets of molars, up to eight in all, fully emerge around those ages, he said.

And sealants can only be placed on healthy teeth.

In at-risk populations, Adams said, there is a common belief that dental care is unnecessary, and educational programs are helping to turn that around, resulting in better health habits.

He hopes to expand the Sealants for Smiles program to every grade, "catching problems at an ideal time to help make a difference."

The program employs Adams and 15 part-time, independently contracted dental hygienists. Adams said everything operates under controlled environments, with all supplies donated by Utah-based Ultradent Products, one of the world's largest dental product manufacturers.

Ultradent provides about $50,000 in product each year, while Dental Select covers all administrative costs. Donations, such as the one from Intermountain, are put entirely toward patient care.

"It really does take a village," said Carol Jent, a clinical hygienist at Utradent. She said the company's goal is to stop dental decay, which is the world's most prevalent chronic disease.

"When you look close to home, you see there are needs in Utah," Jent said, adding that the need for increased access to dental care is more evident as the state's population grows and down-turned economic conditions continue.

Statewide, there are 130,929 children attending Utah public schools who participate in school lunch programs. Sealants for Smiles targets 230 at-risk elementary schools where a majority of those kids are enrolled. Half of those at-risk schools are in Salt Lake, Weber, Davis, Tooele and Utah counties.

Students with extensive decay or other dental problems, resulting from a combination of improper dental care or diet, are referred to various clinics that offer alternative payment methods or provide low-cost or free care.

E-mail: wleonard@desnews.com, Twitter: wendyleonards

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