The dental sealant procedure is performed on a student at William Paca/Old Post Elementary School Oct. 27 during a visit by Maryland Secretary of Health and Mental Hygiene Van T. Mitchell.
The dental sealant procedure is performed on a student at William Paca/Old Post Elementary School Oct. 27 during a visit by Maryland Secretary of Health and Mental Hygiene Van T. Mitchell.

Some students at William Paca/Old Post Road Elementary School in Abingdon recently had had their teeth sealed in front of a rather large audience of visiting dignitaries, including Maryland's top public health official.

The sealing process was demonstrated for Maryland Secretary of Health and Mental Hygiene Van T. Mitchell, who visited the school Oct. 27 with a host of local government leaders, Harford County Health Department and Harford County Public Schools representatives, in observance of National Dental Hygiene Month.

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Among those present were Dr. Harry Goodman, director of the DHMH Office of Oral Health; Harford County Executive Barry Glassman; Harford County Council President Richard Slutzky; Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Jean Mantegna and Executive Director of Elementary School Performance Angela Morton, representing School Superintendent Barbara Canavan; Nurse Coordinator Mary Nasuta; and William Paca/Old Post Road Elementary School Principal Tammy Bosley; Harford Health Officer Susan Kelly; Deputy Health Officer Dr. Russell Moy; Director of Administration Marcy Austin; and Dental Outreach Coordinator Katy Battani.

Dental sealants are applied to a student at William Paca/Old Post Road Elementary as Harford County Executive Barry Glassman and Maryland Secretary of Health Van T. Mitchell observe. --
Dental sealants are applied to a student at William Paca/Old Post Road Elementary as Harford County Executive Barry Glassman and Maryland Secretary of Health Van T. Mitchell observe. --

Introducing Mitchell, Kelly emphasized partnerships were key to both the initial launch and continuation of Harford's successful oral health initiatives.

"We know that good oral health is crucial to overall health in many ways. The work being done to ensure Maryland children get on the pathway to good oral health as early as possible helps to elevate their overall health outcomes," Mitchell said.

Battani described for attendees how dental sealants are painlessly and easily applied into tiny depressions and grooves on the biting surfaces of permanent molar teeth to "seal out" plaque and food from cavity-vulnerable areas.

According to county health officials, research shows that the combination of fluoride and dental sealants are the most effective means to prevent tooth decay.

Dawn Anthony, a registered dental hygienist and the county health department dental outreach co-coordinator, led the second-graders in a discussion of good dental health care habits, including proper brushing and flossing techniques, eating nutritious foods, drinking fluoridated water and making regular visits to the dentist.

Afterward, the adults followed the students to the area where they would receive their dental sealant treatment. While awaiting their turn, students practiced brushing the teeth of animal puppets specially designed for oral hygiene education.

"Starting [good oral health practices] early provides far greater assurances that these behaviors will carry them through a lifetime. By providing children access to these services they might not otherwise have, we're all winners," Slutzky, who spent most of his career as a school health educator, said.

"It was especially meaningful to have Secretary Mitchell observe the dental sealant program in action. As deputy health secretary in 2006...he had the foresight and vision to be one of the first high-level leaders to address the oral health crisis that was at that time bubbling beneath the surface. Without his intervention then, we wouldn't be where we are currently in oral health and there very likely wouldn't be a dental sealant program in Harford County operating today," Goodman, a longtime Harford resident, said,

Beginning in August 2014, the Harford County Health Department dental program launched the school-based Dental Sealant Program that provides dental screenings, dental sealants, fluoride treatments, oral health education, referrals and case management services to second- and third-graders in Title I schools, which are schools with a high percentage of students from low income families.

Harford County Health Officer Susan Kelly welcomes Maryland Secretary of Health Van T. Mitchell to William Paca/Old Post Road Elementary, where Mitchell observed the dental sealant procedure performed on students.
Harford County Health Officer Susan Kelly welcomes Maryland Secretary of Health Van T. Mitchell to William Paca/Old Post Road Elementary, where Mitchell observed the dental sealant procedure performed on students.

From July 2014 through June 2015, according to county health officials, the Dental Sealant Program, supported by grants from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene's Office of Oral Health, completed 655 dental screenings and provided 526 fluoride varnish treatments. An additional 1,488 dental sealants were applied on the teeth of 451 public school students. Of the 655 students screened, more than one in three had untreated tooth decay and many were determined to have urgent dental needs, health officials said.

The Harford County Health Department offers other community dental services though a clinic in Edgewood.

In its eighth year of operation, the dental clinic, which is located at 2204 Hanson Road in the Edgewood Plaza Shopping Center, provides comprehensive dental services to children and pregnant women receiving medical assistance.

Since opening its doors, the facility and its staff have recorded almost 50,000 visits in responding to the oral health care needs of nearly 8,000 patient, according to the health department. The clinic provides general and preventive dental care including cleanings, oral examinations, fluoride treatments, fillings and sealants. So far this year, they have completed more than 4,200 clinical visits.

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For more information about Harford County's public health dental clinic or to schedule an appointment, call 443-922-7670 or visit the health department's website, www.harfordcountyhealth.com.

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