Maine Oral Health Program
The Maine School Oral Health Program
Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease of childhood. It affects 85% of children by the time they finish high school. Dental problems can result in failure to thrive, impaired speech development, absence from and/or inability to concentrate in school, and reduced self-esteem. Poor oral health has been related to decreased school performance, poor social relationships and less success later in life.
The School Oral Health Program (SOHP) provides grant funding, training and technical assistance to eligible public elementary schools with activities being focused in Grades K through 6. Each program is locally designed to meet the needs of the individual students. Within the limits of available funding, schools receive small grants to help them purchase needed supplies, educational materials and support other aspects of their programs. Eligibility for funding is determined according to criteria that help focus these grants on schools where children are more likely to be at increased risk of tooth decay and have greater difficulty in accessing regular ongoing oral health care.
The Four Components of the School Oral Health Program
All children receive oral health education. Practical information to promote healthy behaviors is provided. Some features of the education include:
- Grant funding to support the purchase of educational tools and supplies.
- Instructional tools such as posters, videos, pamphlets, models and instructional tubs (Adobe PDF*) as well as technical assistance from the Oral Health Program.
A weekly fluoride mouth rinse is given to children with parental permission. The mouth rinse is swished for one minute and spit out. It strengthens and protects teeth that are already present in the mouth.
- Dental Screenings
Dental screenings are conducted by each funded School Oral Health Program at least once during each multi-year grant cycle. Dental screenings help to identify children who need dental care and provide data needed to help assess the SOHP’s impact.
- Dental Sealants
Schools with funding from the Oral Health Program for local school oral health programs may apply for additional funding to support school-based dental sealant programs. Dental sealants are thin plastic coatings that are painted into the deep grooves of back teeth. They help to prevent dental decay by sealing grooves that are most likely to decay. School sealant programs are usually conducted by dental hygienists. The combination of sealants and fluoride has the potential to virtually eliminate tooth decay.
- Create an awareness of the role sugar plays in dental decay and overall health.
- Encourage students and staff to refrain from eating foods with added sugar.
- Assist Students in choosing snacks low in sugar and high in nutrition.