East Hawaii News

Health Department Announces “Hawai’i Smiles” Dental Program

February 23, 2015, 1:26 PM HST
* Updated February 23, 1:27 PM
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A new dental surveillance program has been launched by the Hawai’i State Department of Health.

Sixty-four public and charter schools will take part in the Hawai’i Smiles program that conducts voluntary oral health assessments on third grade students. Officials say that about 3,300 students will be given the assessments during the 2015 school year. Dental screening for students on the Big Island began on Feb.4 and will continue through May.

“Dental health is a critical part of each child’s overall wellness; students need good oral in order to speak with confidence, express themselves openly and to be healthy and ready to learn,” said Danette Wong Tomiyasu, deputy director of Health Resources. “Through the Hawai’i Smiles program, the Department of Health will be gathering important data that will be used to improve the health of all children in Hawai’i.”

The assessments will help monitor the dental health of Hawai’i students through the gathering of population-based data. In order to be certain that the DOH gathers a representative sample, the Hawai’i Smiles Program randomly chose 64 pre-selected elementary schools out of 203 throughout the state.

Results from the program will be used to assist in measuring the effectiveness of preventative oral public health programs and initiatives. The results will be published and used to understand and prioritize dental health needs and inform planning and policy decisions.

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Student participating in the screening must have signed consent from a parent or caregiver. Parents and guardians will receive a letter noting the results of the screening and if their child needs urgent dental care. The screening will last about one minute and no x-rays or dental treatment will be provided. Students will receive a toothbrush and toothpaste kit. Neither the child’s family nor school will be charged for the screening.

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“The Department of Health expresses our appreciation for everyone’s contribution toward the health and well-being of our Hawai’i keiki. This program would not be possible without the support of the dozens of dental professional serving as screeners and many partnership agencies,” added Tomiyasu. “In particular we would like to thank the Hawai’i Dental Service Foundation for their generous grant of $137,501 to support this oral health data surveillance project.”

Three federal grants, the Centers for Disease Control State Oral Health Disease Prevention Program, the Center for Disease Control Preventative Health and Health Service Block grant, and the Health Resources and Services Administration State System Development Initiative grant, plus a grant from the Hawai’i Dental Service Foundation, have provided the funds to support the project.

In addition to funding, a variety of partnerships have made the Hawai’i Smile project possible, including a unique public-private partnership between the Department of Health, Department of Education, Hawai’i Dental Service Foundation, and the Hawai’i Primary Care Association. Dental professionals from the Hawai’i Dental Association, the Hawai’i Dental Hygiene Association, and the Lutheran Medical Center Pediatric Dental Residency Program will perform the dental screenings. Many community volunteers, including the Hawai’i Medical Service Corps, will provide additional assistance.

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