UM Dental School Hosts 'Sealant Saturday' to Treat Baltimore Area Children
The University of Maryland Dental School hosted the Maryland Dental Hygienists' Association(MDHA)'s "Sealant Saturday," a volunteer community outreach for children's oral health. The event drew strong support from two Maryland public officials who have been longtime advocates for better oral health care for children.
"This is personal to us in Maryland," said U.S. Senator Benjamin Cardin. "When you put on this Sealant Saturday, when you are doing this so that children can get protection from tooth decay, we get very emotional. This is very cost-effective health care."
U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings said, "When you have a toothache, it is hard to concentrate in school. When you have a tooth ache it is hard to live a life like normal children live." He said the event was "helping children be the best they can be."
The MDHA, in cooperation with the Dental School and Baltimore City Community College Department of Dental Hygiene, provided free sealants, oral examinations, oral hygiene instruction, and fluoride treatments to children in the Baltimore region who turned out for the event.
Volunteers, including licensed dental hygienists, licensed dentists, and student dental hygienists, cleaned and sealed the teeth of hundreds of children at the Dental School.
"The Dental School is proud to support Sealant Saturday," said Dental School Dean Christian S. Stohler, DMD, DrMedDent. "The reason we are doing this is clear in that universities exist to generate knowledge and translate that knowledge into applications and ultimately to something like this that is needed by people in the community."
"Sealants are very effective in protecting molars and premolars against plaque buildup," said Carolynn Wahl, RDH, public relations chair for the MDHA, "They will protect teeth for several years before a reapplication is needed."
According to the MDHA, the best way to make sure that children don't get cavities or gingivitis is to instill proper oral habits early. Good oral hygiene habits need to be established as early as infancy.
Sealants are an easy complement to personal hygiene habits. The dental hygienist or dentist takes only a few minutes to seal each tooth. Before a tooth is sealed it is cleaned, then the chewing surfaces are roughened with an acid solution to help the sealant adhere to the tooth. The sealant is then painted on the tooth enamel, where it bonds directly to the tooth and hardens.
In the 1990s oral health in Maryland children was among the worst in the nation, according to the MDHA. Only 6 percent of Medicare children were receiving restorative care such as dental fillings. Yet 50 percent had cavities.
As a result officials created comprehensive state legislation mandating yearly improvements in oral health care. That and other improvements such as Sealant Saturday have had a positive impact. In 2008, the last year figures are available, 53 percent of children in underserved areas received an annual dental checkup.