Nurses and Dental Providers Offer No-Cost Oral Health Services to Public School Students

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month

Nearly 2,000 public school keiki have received dental screenings from the Hawaii Keiki – Hawaii Dental Service (HDS) Dental Sealant 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 easy way to prevent cavities. But despite the high-need and benefits, it is reported that more than 60% of children statewide do not have dental sealants.

Student getting dental screening

For the past three years, the Hawaii Keiki- HDS Dental Sealant Program has experienced rapid growth to address the high-need for dental sealants in the State of Hawaii by providing screenings and sealants to 2nd and 3rd grade keiki at Hawaii Department of Education (HIDOE) Title 1 schools. In 2019, the program was piloted on Oahu and screened 106 keiki. Now in its third year, the program screened 869 keiki in the Fall 2022 semester alone and has expanded from Oahu to Maui and Kauai.

“The program is an important first step in improving oral health outcomes for our keiki,” said Deborah Mattheus, the Hawaii Keiki-HDS Dental Sealant Program Director. “Keiki often 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 Hawaii 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. Our growth would also not have been possible without having an interprofessional team of dentists, dental hygienists, nurses, and support staff.”

Since 2019, the program has:

·       hosted 90 dental sealant day events at HIDOE schools on Oahu, Maui and Kauai;

·       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.

Sealant application

Nurses and Dentist Partner with HIDOE to Support Student Oral Health

The Hawaii Keiki – HDS Dental Sealant Program collaborates with HIDOE to identify high-need elementary schools that would benefit from dental sealant days. The program brings licensed dentists and dental hygienists directly to the school, eliminating barriers that families may experience accessing oral healthcare. Hawaii Keiki nurses provide critical assistance in coordination with school teachers and staff and assist during the visit.

During the visits, dental sealants are applied on the keiki’s teeth to help prevent cavities and tooth decay. The sealants are thin clear or white plastic coatings that are simply applied with a brush on the child’s teeth. The sealant application protects the dips and grooves on the top of teeth and keep food and bacteria from causing cavities. The application process only takes a few minutes to apply then dry and harden. After the sealants are applied, participating students receive a goodie bag provided by HDS which includes a free toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, and educational material.

Student learning how to brush teeth

Increasing Access to Oral Health Treatment for Maui Students

As part of its expansion to the neighboring islands, the program developed a partnership with dentists Dr. Emi Orikasa and Dr. Steven McDaniel at Hui No Ke Ola Pono, Inc., providing a community-wide effort to provide better oral healthcare access to public school keiki.

“In January, we saw the biggest turn-out yet with 106 keiki participating in the dental sealant visit at Lihikai Elementary in Kahului,” said Dr. Emi Orikasa, Oral Health Director and dentist at Hui No Ke Ola Pono, Inc. “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. 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 Hawaii Keiki, many of these keiki may have continued to experience discomfort and pain due to dental decay. The partnership that Hui No Ke Ola Pono, Inc. has with Hawaii 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 providers and nurse at sealant event

To learn more about the Hawaii Keiki – Hawaii Dental Service (HDS) Dental Sealant Program visit the Hawaii Keiki Dental Services webpage.


About the UH Manoa Nancy Atmospera-Walch School of Nursing

UH Manoa Nursing, the Nursing Capital of the Pacific, is the leader in nursing education and research in Hawaii with outreach to Asia and the Pacific Basin. We support the mission of the University of Hawaii at Manoa: to provide an innovative, caring and multicultural environment in which faculty, students and staff work together to generate and transmit knowledge, wisdom, and values to promote quality of life and health for present and future generations. The school offers the BS, master’s, and doctoral programs. To reflect Hawaii’s unique cultural diversity and heritage, UH Manoa Nursing is committed to increasing the representation of Native Hawaiian and other underserved people in all nursing programs.

About Hawaii Keiki: Healthy & Ready to Learn

Hawaii Keiki is a partnership between UH Manoa Nursing and the Hawaii Department of Education and sits at the intersection of education and health to support the DOE to achieve student, school, and system success. The program is designed to improve access and quality of health services in the school by coordinating and expanding existing efforts of the partners and community resources. The program is enhancing and building school based health services that screen for treatable health conditions; provide referral to primary health care and patient centered medical home services; prevent and control communicable disease and other health problems; and provide emergency care for illness or injury. Visit us at


Desiree Uyeda, Marketing Manager
Hawaii Keiki: Healthy & Ready to Learn
Nancy Atmospera-Walch School of Nursing
Office (808) 956-2904

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