Since 2013, Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation has granted $1 million to fund an initiative to increase school-based programs that provide dental sealants to children. Sealants are a type of preventative dental care that are highly effective in keeping cavities from forming on children’s teeth. According to the Children’s Dental Health Project, this preventative measure is about ten times less costly than the amount of money spent on inpatient emergency care for children with serious decay and infection. Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation’s initiative, Smiles@School, has placed sealants on over 14,000 children in Minnesota, in partnership with dental providers and the Minnesota Department of Health.
Dental sealants are clear, plastic coatings that are painted onto the molars. Molars are the most cavity prone teeth for children. It is recommended that children get dental sealants at an early age in order to bring down the risk of them getting a cavity. The risk is even higher for U.S. children from lower income families. Based on Minnesota’s Basic Screening Survey, children from Minnesota schools serving mostly low income families were 3.3 times more at risk for having untreated dental decay. These students were also 1.5 times less likely to have dental sealants as a cavity deterrent.
The Smiles@School program is expanding this year by adding free oral health kits for every first grader in Minnesota. First grade is when the majority of children will get their first permanent tooth, which is an important teaching opportunity. Participating first graders will receive a toothbrush, water bottle, backpack, educational materials, and to encourage good oral hygiene practices that will last a lifetime. Smiles@School aims to reach 66,000 first graders across the state of Minnesota. To learn more about the Smiles@School program visit: http://www.deltadentalmn.org/smilesatschool