Free dental sealants at Astor School

By Sue Cody


dentistChildren at Astor Elementary School may be smiling a bit brighter after Sept. 18, when the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) School Dental Sealant Program visits. The program offers free oral screening and dental sealants to prevent tooth decay.


The dental sealant is a liquid coating placed over the chewing surface of children’s molars, where 90 percent of all cavities occur. OHA reports the sealants can reduce tooth decay by 50 percent.


At Astor, first and second graders are eligible for the free sealants, if they have written permission from their parents. Forms were sent to families in school packets, says Astor nurse Tara Johnson.


A mother-daughter team of licensed providers will visit Astor and screen children to determine their needs, and place sealants when appropriate. Referrals are given to children who need further care.


“The kids think it’s great fun,” says Johnson. Parents like it, too, she adds. “The kids don’t have to miss school, there is no cost and they don’t have to worry about transportation.


“The School Dental Sealant Program will visit Astoria Middle School in the spring,” Johnson says.


The need


In 2012, the last year for available data, 52 percent of Oregon children 6 to 9 years old had tooth decay, and 20 percent of those were untreated.


Regular brushing and flossing are the first line of defense in preventing tooth decay, but dental sealants can further protect teeth.


“Molars have many tiny areas on the surface that can trap food and create cavities,” writes Susan Fitzgerald for the Columbia Pacific Coordinated Care Organization (CCO). “Brushing won’t clean them all. Dental sealants close off those areas and keep out food particles and germs.”




The OHA School Dental Sealant Program began in 2014, serving low-income children, who are less likely to receive care in a dentist’s office. To be eligible, elementary and middle schools must have at least 40 percent of students eligible for the national school lunch program.


Oregon Data, 2016-17

  • 715 elementary, elementary/middle, or middle schools were eligible for school dental sealant programs
  • 462 eligible elementary grades were served (88 percent of the eligible elementary grades)
  • 132 eligible middle school grades were served (47 percent of eligible middle school grades)


OHA Statewide School Dental Sealant Program

  • 66 OHA-served schools were transitioned to local programs
  • 83 eligible schools participated in the OHA dental sealant program
  • 3,484 children were screened
  • 2,507 children received dental sealants
  • 8,267 sealants were provided
  • 32 percent of the children screened were referred for needed restorative care


The Way to Wellville and its sponsor, the Columbia Pacific CCO, support healthy activities and behaviors, including oral health. Parents of children served by Columbia Pacific CCO can also schedule appointments for free dental sealants with their regular dentist.


For more information, see OHA website: