Maui News

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

Listen to this Article
3 minutes
Loading Audio... Article will play after ad...
Playing in :00

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

Hawaiʻi Dental Service Foundation has provided a $133,447 grant to continue a public school dental sealant program that screened more than 650 children during 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 at high-need Title I public elementary schools.

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


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

The Hawaiʻi Keiki-HDS Dental Sealant Program provides oral health assessments and dental sealants at no-cost and brings licensed dentists and dental hygienists to the school to minimize student’s time away from class. Families of participating students receive assessment reports, referrals and oral care kits, and students who need urgent dental care receive referrals to community dental service providers.

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


“The schools and parents just love this program because we are providing safe and effective sealants to prevent future cavities,” said Deborah Mattheus, the Hawaiʻi Keiki-HDS Dental Sealant Program director in a University press release. “In addition to sealing teeth, we are screening students for urgent dental conditions and making referrals to get them immediate care. It is hard to learn if you have sore teeth. We are also teaching the kids about the importance of brushing and flossing daily.”

“HDS is proud to support this important sealant program to safeguard the oral health of HIDOE students,” said Dr. Diane Paloma, president and CEO of Hawaiʻi Dental Service. “Increasing access to dental care in schools helps families establish good oral health habits now to ensure their children have a lifetime of healthy smiles.”

In the last school year, the program screened 653 public school students at 28 schools on Oʻahu, Maui and Kauaʻi, with 430 students, or about 66%, who received dental sealants. Additionally, the screenings identified 31 children who required urgent dental care.


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

Children in Hawai‘i have among the highest rates of dental decay (cavities) in the nation with 71% of Hawai‘i’s third graders experiencing tooth decay, according to a 2015 state Department of Health report. The report found that 7% needed urgent dental care, as compared to the national rate of 1%. Also, more than 60% of third graders in Hawai‘i did not have sealants on permanent molars. The Hawaiʻi Keiki-HDS Dental Sealant Program is proactively working to increase the number of children who receive dental sealants.

“We’re grateful for the significant role HDS Foundation plays as a community partner for UH Mānoa NAWSON, Hawai‘i Keiki and the Hawai‘i Department of Education,” said Tim Dolan, University of Hawai‘i vice president of advancement and CEO of the University of Hawai‘i Foundation. “Mahalo to HDS Foundation for supporting this critical preventive service for Hawai‘i’s keiki.”


Sponsored Content

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Stay in-the-know with daily or weekly
headlines delivered straight to your inbox.


This comments section is a public community forum for the purpose of free expression. Although Maui Now encourages respectful communication only, some content may be considered offensive. Please view at your own discretion. View Comments