Wisconsin SAS is a statewide sealant program that offers grants to local school-based dental sealant programs. SAS is funded by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) through State General Purpose Revenue and a generous grant from the Delta Dental of Wisconsin Foundation. The SAS program is managed collaboratively by Children’s Health Alliance of Wisconsin and DHS Oral Health Program. Statewide the program provides care to children in 59 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties.
“Being selected as a Wisconsin Seal-a-Smile program not only provides Smart Smiles with operational funding, it gives us credibility with school officials, who graciously allow the program to operate in local schools,” says Elizabeth Nelson, Clinic Manager of Columbia St. Mary’s St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Dental Clinic.
Wisconsin SAS programs provide oral screenings, dental sealants, oral health education and fluoride varnish application in the schools using evidence-based practices. Wisconsin SAS targets schools where at least 35 percent of the enrolled children participate in the free and reduced meal program. Any students in need of additional dental care are referred to local dental offices. Columbia St. Mary’s Smart Smiles will provide 6,500 students with preventive dental services to help keep them healthy and free of dental pain during the upcoming school year.
Dental decay (cavities) is the most common chronic childhood disease. Despite advances in prevention, some children still suffer unnecessarily with dental pain and infection. Often the dental conditions prevent children from attending school. Dental sealants are an evidence-based strategy for preventing cavities. Many uninsured and low-income children lack access to regular preventive dental care, including sealants. For the 2013-2014 school year, Smart Smiles will serve 35 MPS schools and five private and charter schools.
“Thousands of needy children in Milwaukee have no other access to dental care and desperately need the preventative services Smart Smiles brings to their schools,” says Nelson. “Last year, 57 percent of the children served by Smart Smiles had untreated dental decay (cavities). On the positive side, the program provided dental sealants on over 15,000 healthy teeth preventing many thousands of additional cavities.”
Smart Smiles uses grant funding to deliver the school-based services. Local organizations are also important as they make financial contributions, donate supplies, and volunteer time to support the program. Smart Smiles has provided a school-based dental sealant program since 2001.