Hawaiʻi Dental Service Foundation grant serves more children with school-based program

A student receiving care from a dental service provider. PC: University of Hawaii.

The Hawaiʻi Dental Service Foundation awarded a $133,447 grant to continue a dental sealing program in public schools that screened more than 650 children in the last school year, two-thirds of whom received dental sealants at no cost .

The Hawaiʻi Keiki-HDS Dental Sealant Program was developed in 2019, to coordinate dental screenings and provide on-site dental sealants to high-need Title I public elementary schools.

Dental sealants help prevent cavities on permanent molars, and the application of sealants is quick, non-invasive and painless, according to administrators. Sealants are regularly applied by a dentist to the keiki around the second or third year.


Hawaiʻi Keiki: Healthy & Ready to Learn is a partnership between the University of Hawaiʻi at Nancy Atmospera-Walch School of Nursing in Mānoa and the Hawaii State Department of Education. The mission of the Hawaiʻi Keiki program is to keep the keiki healthy and ready to learn by providing access to school nursing services in Hawaiʻi public schools.

The Hawaiʻi Keiki-HDS dental sealant program provides free oral health assessments and dental sealants and brings licensed dentists and dental hygienists to the school to minimize student time outside of class. Families of participating students receive assessment reports, referrals and oral care kits, and students in need of urgent dental care are referred to community dental service providers.

The program will continue to screen more HIDOE students in this new school year.


“Schools and parents love this program because we provide safe and effective sealants to prevent future cavities,” said Deborah Mattheus, director of the Hawaiʻi Keiki-HDS dental sealant program in a University press release. “In addition to sealing teeth, we screen students for urgent dental issues and refer them for immediate care. It’s hard to learn if you have a toothache. We also teach children the importance of brushing and flossing daily.

“HDS is proud to support this important sealing program to protect the oral health of HIDOE students,” said Dr. Diane Paloma, President and CEO of Hawaiʻi Dental Service. “Improving access to dental care in schools is helping families start good oral health habits now to ensure their children have a healthy smile for life.”

During the past school year, the program screened 653 public school students at 28 schools on Oʻahu, Maui and Kauaʻi, with 430 students, or about 66 percent, receiving dental sealants. In addition, screenings identified 31 children in need of urgent dental care.


“We are excited to continue our partnership with the HDS Foundation to collaboratively improve oral health and overall health across the state,” said Clementina Ceria-Ulep, Acting Dean of NAWSON. “Our Hawaiʻi Keiki program is uniquely positioned to provide direct services to public school students.”

According to a 2015 Department of Health report, children in Hawaii have one of the highest rates of tooth decay (cavities) in the nation, with 71% of third-grade students in Hawaii suffering from tooth decay. The report found that 7% needed urgent dental care, compared to the national rate of 1%. Additionally, more than 60% of third-graders in Hawai’i had no sealants on their permanent molars. The Hawaiʻi Keiki-HDS dental sealant program works proactively to increase the number of children who receive dental sealants.

“We are grateful for the important role the HDS Foundation plays as a community partner for UH Mānoa NAWSON, Hawai’i Keiki and the Hawaii Department of Education,” said Tim Dolan, Vice President of Advancement and CEO of the University of Hawaii. of the University of Hawai’i Foundation. “Mahalo to the HDS Foundation for supporting this essential preventative service for Hawaii’s keiki.”

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