For students, a happy tooth day

Citrus County second-grade students have a reason to smile.

As part of National Children’s Dental Health Month, Raquel Gonzalez, dental hygienist at the county health department, is visiting the county’s public schools and applying a dental sealant to students’ first, or “6-year,” molars.

This no-cost-to-parents program is provided to all students with parental permission.

The sealant material was donated to the county health department through the Smiles Across America program of the Chicago-based Oral Health America.

“We’ve done this school-based dental sealant program every year since 2005,” Gonzalez said. “We take our portable equipment to the schools and we do screenings, dental assessments, on second-graders. If they need sealant on their first molars, we go ahead and apply it.”

The sealant is applied to the chewing surfaces of molars. As Gonzalez explained, when a molar first erupts, it has deep pits and grooves on the chewing surface.

“These areas are very difficult to clean, and food and bacteria get trapped and a toothpaste can’t clean those areas,” she said. “So, what we do is place a sealant that protects the tooth from bacteria and keeps a nice, smooth surface.”

After the tooth is cleaned, a clear gel is applied on the chewing surface, then rinsed with water. The tooth is dried and the sealant is painted on the grooves of the tooth and a light hardens the sealant.

Sealants can protect against 85 percent of chewing surface cavities, and generally last about five years.

This year’s school-based dental sealant program began in January and continues through March for second-grade students. In the fall, the sealant program is offered to sixth-grade students on their second, or “12-year,” molars.

In addition, while checking students’ teeth, Gonzalez will note if any further dental attention is needed and that information gets sent home in a letter to parents.

“Here at the health department, our dental programs are preventative rather than offering a dental care clinic,” said Janora Wade, community health director of nursing. “Part of that is providing these sealants to protect these teeth so they don’t get cavities.”

Wade also acknowledged that dental visits can be costly and that Langley Health Services offers dental care services.

For more information, visit online at: www.flhealth.gov/dental/sealant.html.

Call Langley Health Services clinic in Inverness at 352-423-4930.

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