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School-Based Oral Health Programs

In February 2011, the Texas Oral Health Coalition Board of Directors adopted a resolution recognizing that school-based oral health programs play an important role in preventing and controlling dental caries in children and adolescents.

School-Based Health Programs are programs that are attached to or operate inside the school which focus on comprehensive health care. These can include school-based health centers1 and programs which bring health professionals2 to the school for treatment. Often oral health is addressed by separate school-based oral health programs focused on preventive efforts such as fluoride varnish and sealants.

A literature review "by the Division of Adolescent and School Health of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified school-based health promotional intervention that not only improved health attitudes and behaviors, but also improved their academic performance. School-based health canters also have been shown to improve children and adolescents' health for several outcomes while reducing health care costs. Students who use school-based health centers also have higher satisfaction with their health status and have healthier behaviors, such as more physical activity and greater consumption of healthier foods."3


School-Based Programs in Texas

Texas has both school-based health centers and oral health programs which bring dental providers to the schools or bus students to the providers to receive preventive and/or restorative dental services.

"Today, there are approximately 89 school-based health centers serving the children of Texas as reported by the Texas Association of School-Based Health Centers.4 Most of these centers are located in a permanent facility on a school campus. The centers on average are open for treatment about 40 hours per week for physical health care, 37 hours per week for mental health care and about 4 hours per week for dental care."

School-based dental sealant programs are also available in Texas "to some students who qualify at selected low-income schools. A parent or guardian needs to read, complete and sign the consent form, and have the child return the form to the teacher" to complete the general eligibility requirements for student participation.5

Some of the school-based oral health programs in Texas are:

Dental Health Arlington - SMILES Program

"SMILES School-based Preventive Program annually benefits over 9,000 children in area elementary schools where at least 50% of the students are on the free and reduced lunch program. In the schools served, the average percentage of kids on the free or reduced lunch program is 87%. Children in first, second and third grades receive oral health education and a new toothbrush. Second and third graders are screened by a dental professional and a note is sent home to parents about the child’s oral health condition. With signed parental permission, sealants are applied to healthy first molars and fluoride is applied to stop and prevent further decay at the school campus using portable dental equipment."6

Miles of Smiles - San Antonio and Laredo

"The Miles of Smiles program provides preventive oral health services from dental health professionals to children in kindergarten, second and third grades at no cost to parents, children, or schools. Currently, Miles of Smiles is providing services in two Texas cities: Laredo and San Antonio."7 Miles of Smiles is a collaborative effort between UT Health Science Center San Antonio and San Antonio Metro Health.

Project Saving Smiles - Houston

Project Saving Smiles (PSS) is a school-based oral health effort to provide dental care to underserved second graders in Houston. "Using an evidence and community-based public health dental approach, Project Saving Smiles (PSS) provides dental screening, dental sealants, fluoride varnish, and oral health education free of charge targeting 2nd graders enrolled in the Free or Reduced Lunch Program and who have written parental consent."8


School house

School-Based Program Resources

The National Maternal and Child Oral Health Resource Center (OHRC) Promoting Oral Health in Schools: A Resource Guide.
Promoting healthy behaviors among students is an important part of the fundamental mission of schools. To assist in this effort, OHRC produced Promoting Oral Health in Schools: A Resource Guide (3rd ed.) to help health professionals, program administrators, educators, and others promote oral health and prevent oral disease in school-age children and adolescents. The resource guide is divided into two sections. The first section describes materials, such as brochures, fact sheets, guidelines, curricula, and reports. The second section lists federal agencies and national professional associations, coalitions, and resource centers that may serve as resources. Your state and local departments of health and state and local oral-health-related associations, coalitions, and societies are additional sources of information.

The National Maternal and Child Oral Health Resource Center (OHRC) Resource Highlights, School Oral Health Services
This collection of selected resources offers high-quality information about oral health services for school-age children and adolescents. Use the tools below for further searching, or contact us for personalized assistance.

Texas Association of School-Based Health Centers

Texas DSHS, School Health Program - School-Based Health Centers

ASTDD Best Practices Report on School-based Dental Sealant Programs

CDC School-based Dental Sealant Programs

Seal America: The Prevention Invention

School-based Dental Health: Considerations for Program Development

Ohio School-Based Dental Sealant Programs
Welcome to School-Based Dental Sealant Programs, a series of modules designed to ensure that school-based dental sealant program staff have a thorough understanding of the history, operations, and underlying principles of these programs.

Selecting a School-based Oral Health Care Program - Questions and Answers for School Staff (State of Michigan)

Selecting a School-based Oral Health Program (State of Wisconsin)

National Maternal and Child Oral Health Policy Center - Oral Health Opportunities in School-Based Health Centers (October 2010 Issue Brief)

The Neglected Epidemic and the Surgeon General's Report: A Call to Action for Better Oral Health

The Center for Health and Health Care in Schools

Nurses, Oral Health Assessment for School Nurses