Maui News

No-cost oral health services for public school students expand to Maui

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Dental clinic for public school elementary students. PC: University of Hawai’i.

As part of its expansion to the neighboring islands, the Hawai‘i Keiki––Hawai‘i Dental Service (HDS) Dental Sealant Program developed a partnership with dentists Emi Orikasa and Steven McDaniel at Hui No Ke Ola Pono, Inc. Under the partnership, the dentists are participating in a community-wide effort to provide better oral healthcare access to public school keiki in Maui County. 

In January, Orikasa said she saw the biggest turnout yet, with 106 keiki participating in the dental sealant visit at Lihikai Elementary School in Kahului.

Dental clinic for public school elementary students. PC: University of Hawai’i.

“We were pleased with the great start at Lihikai where we were able to assess and provide treatment to so many children here on Maui,” said Orikasa. “There were a lot of children at Lihikai who needed follow-up treatment due to the detection of rampant decay, so we will connect them with a dentist or get them back to their dentist for care. Without this service and partnership with Hawaiʻi Keiki, many of these keiki may have continued to experience discomfort and pain due to dental decay.” 


She said the partnership that Hui No Ke Ola Pono, Inc. has with Hawaiʻi Keiki “is proof that a school-based health service program can greatly benefit the Maui community by increasing access to oral healthcare for keiki in public schools.”

Dental health providers at Lihikai Elementary in Kahului, Maui. PC: University of Hawai’i.

No-cost oral health services for public school students 

No-cost dental screenings are also available to keiki attending Hawaiʻi Department of Education (HIDOE) public schools on Oʻahu, Maui and Kauaʻi. 


Nearly 2,000 public school keiki have received dental screenings through the program since 2019. Of those keiki, more than half (61%) needed and received dental sealants, indicating a high-need for school-based health services programs that address oral health. 

Dental sealants are a quick and an easy way to prevent cavities. However, despite the high-need and benefits, it is reported that more than 60% of children statewide do not have dental sealants. 

“The program is an important first step in improving oral health outcomes for our keiki,” said Deborah Mattheus, Hawai‘i Keiki-HDS Dental Sealant program director, who is also an associate professor of nursing at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. “It’s not unusual for keiki to miss school due to dental pain, which not only limits their ability to eat and speak, but also reduces their overall quality of life. Thanks to the generous support of Hawai‘i Dental Services Foundation, school-based health programs like ours can offer a solution by providing dental sealants directly to school campuses and at no-cost to families.” 


Expanding services 

For the past three years, the Hawai‘i Keiki—HDS Dental Sealant Program has experienced rapid growth to address the high-need for dental sealants in the state by providing screenings and sealants to 2nd and 3rd grade keiki at HIDOE Title 1 schools. In 2019, the program was piloted on Oʻahu and screened 106 keiki. Now in its third year, the program screened 869 keiki in the fall 2022 semester and has expanded from Oʻahu to Maui and Kauaʻi.

Since 2019, the program has:

  • hosted 90 dental sealant events at HIDOE schools on Oʻahu, Maui and Kauaʻi; 
  • conducted 1,821 dental screenings for 2nd and 3rd grade students;
  • provided sealants for 1,118 students at no cost to families;
  • applied dental sealants to 3,813 teeth;
  • and identified 67 keiki that needed urgent dental care and connected them with services.

“Our growth would also not have been possible without having an interprofessional team of dentists, dental hygienists, nurses and support staff,” Mattheus said.


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