For more than 20 years the Delta Dental of Arizona Foundation has worked to improve oral health and prevent dental disease in the most underserved and uninsured communities across Arizona. And through the decades we’ve been fortunate to team up with some incredible community partners to help support children, families, and older adults in getting access to the oral health care and education they need.
While tooth decay is the most common chronic disease affecting children, it’s also nearly 100% preventable. It’s important to us at Delta Dental of Arizona to support community-based health programs that offer services to at-risk and underserved children.
Smiles Across Pinal County
One organization we’re happy to partner with is A.T. Still University Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health (ATSU-ASDOH). As part of their community dentistry curriculum, third-year ATSU-ASDOH students take part in a service learning project called Smiles Across Pinal County—a school-based sealant program that provides dental screenings, sealants and fluoride varnish applications, oral health education, and dental referrals to over 400 children annually in the Apache Junction school district.
Many counties in Arizona have existing dental sealant programs for underserved children, but Pinal county, which is the third largest in the state by population, has no sealant program. We are very proud to work with ATSU-ASDOH to make such an impact in this community with this program.
Dental sealants act like little coats of armor for children’s teeth. When applied to the back teeth the sealant can prevent germs and food from settling onto the chewing surface of the tooth which helps to prevent cavities from forming. In fact, according to the CDC, sealants can protect against 80% of cavities for two years and continue to protect against 50% of cavities for up to four years.
For children from low-income communities who are less likely to get private dental care, a community or school-based sealant program can significantly reduce their risk for tooth decay. Dental sealant programs reduce decay in school-aged children by more than 70% and are considered a safe, best practice.
We’re grateful to A.T. Still University for making community dentistry an integral part of their curriculum and to the compassionate dental students who provide community outreach on behalf of this program.