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Keiki without sealants on their teeth have almost 3 times as many cavities, CDC says

To make dental care more accessible, some schools are bringing dentists to students.

February is Children’s Dental Health Month and there’s a campaign underway to educate families about an overlooked treatment: dental sealant.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, school-age keiki who don’t apply sealants to their teeth have almost three times as many cavities as those who do.

Statewide only about 15% of kids aged 6 through 8 are receiving dental sealants. Few parents take advantage of the preventive treatment when it's often covered by insurance.

Dr. Gavin Uchida, a pediatric dentist and administrator for Hawaiʻi Dental Services, works in collaboration with the state Department of Education to provide free sealant treatment.

"The program right now and through the past two years has successfully operated on Windward Oʻahu, and we're going to be going to Central Oʻahu very soon. It has also expanded to Maui, where we're seeing kids in Title I schools on Maui," Uchida told Hawaiʻi Public Radio.

"Soon we're going to be launching in Kauaʻi. And our intention is to also make it to Big Island and cover kids all over the state," he added.

The school-based Dental Sealant Program is provided at no cost. Screening and sealant application is done on participating Title I elementary school campuses to minimize the loss of class time.

"I hope the public all want to go and call their dentist now and schedule an appointment," Uchida said.

This interview aired on The Conversation on Feb. 23, 2022. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

Catherine Cruz is the host of The Conversation. Originally from Guam, she spent more than 30 years at KITV, covering beats from government to education. Contact her at ccruz@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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