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School-based Oral Health

The School-based oral health program is an important and effective public health approach in promoting the oral health of children and adolescents. This program provides exams, sealants, cleanings, and fluoride to eligible school children.  Eighty to ninety percent of dental decay in children ages 5 - 17 occurs in the pits and fissures of teeth, mostly on the chewing surfaces. Placing dental sealants on molar teeth significantly lowers the probability that decay in those teeth will occur. The program also helps families comply with the mandatory school dental examinations for children in kindergarten, second, sixth, and ninth grades.

The cost of preventing tooth decay by placing dental sealants in children is much less than the cost of treating tooth decay, and the savings realized over a lifetime can be substantial. According to the Surgeon General Report, there is strong evidence supporting dental sealants and community sealant programs for the prevention of dental decay, particularly for high-risk children. The mobile dental teams that provide care in the schools also work with the school nurses to case manage the children who have restorative dental needs.

To ensure compliance and regulations that protect the health and safety of Illinois children, and to assure a competent public health workforce, The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), Division of Oral Health (DOH), works with the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services Dental Program to complete program evaluations of the annual school-based oral health program. These evaluations provide data on the effectiveness, accessibility and quality of the oral health services.