Through our service, the department of Community Dentistry and Behavioral Science seeks to increase the knowledge of our colleagues within the University of Florida, the broader healthcare and research communities, and the public about current health-related issues affecting the overall well-being of all citizens to ultimately improve treatment, enhance access to care, and influence healthcare policy.
We are committed to helping the community learn more about the importance of preventive dental care.
- Oral Health Surveillance Program
- School-Based Dental Sealant Program
- Head Start Fluoride Varnish Program
- Saving Smiles Program
- Super Sealant Saturday
Oral Health Surveillance Program
The Oral Health Surveillance Program was designed to provide an ongoing countywide estimate of the oral health status of third grade children in Alachua County. The program allows the College of Dentistry’s Department of Community Dentistry and Behavioral Science to take a snapshot of the county’s oral health needs, plan oral health programs, and evaluate the effectiveness of existing programs.
Dental screenings allow us to identify visually obvious oral conditions and determine whether a child has untreated tooth decay, has received treatment for caries, or if they have dental sealants. If dental treatment is needed, we rank its urgency and send home a letter to parents informing them of treatment needs. Children also receive a goodie bag with toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss.
The Oral Health Surveillance Program includes all 23 public elementary schools in Alachua County and provides dental screenings for approximately 2,000 third graders each year. The inclusion of dental screenings in annual elementary school health screenings is the result of a long-term collaborative effort with the School Board of Alachua County, school nurses, and individual schools. Since this program’s inception in 2011, we have documented an increase in the prevalence of dental sealants in Alachua County’s third grade students.
Dental screenings are performed by CDBS clinical faculty and staff, along with UF dental students and Santa Fe College dental hygiene students under faculty supervision.
Our success in Alachua County has led to the development of an oral health surveillance system in Collier County, supported by a grant from the Naples Children & Education Foundation. Each year, more than 2,600 third graders in all 36 public elementary schools in Collier County receive dental screenings.
School-Based Dental Sealant Program
The Alachua County School-Based Dental Sealant Program was initiated in 2010 by the UF College of Dentistry in collaboration with United Way of North Central Florida. Through the school-based dental sealant program, we provide dental sealants for elementary and middle school students in Title 1 schools throughout the county with high levels of dental disease as identified in our Oral Health Surveillance Program.
Dental sealants are a safe plastic coating painted on the biting surface of back teeth to cover up the grooves and provide a smooth surface for brushing. Dental sealants help to prevent tooth decay, reduce the need for dental fillings, and save time and money at future dental visits.
Each year, the School-Based Dental Sealant Program serves over 500 children across 10 schools, and provides over $85,000 worth of preventive dental services at no cost to patients, including dental exams, oral hygiene instructions, placement of dental sealants, and application of fluoride varnish. For those children found to have existing cavities, our program also utilizes Silver Diamine Fluoride, or SDF, an antimicrobial liquid that halts the progression of tooth decay, as well as the placement of protective tooth-colored SMART fillings on primary teeth.
By utilizing portable equipment and skilled providers, high-quality preventive care is provided in a convenient and safe setting to children and families. Services are provided by CDBS clinical faculty and staff, as well as UF dental students and Santa Fe College dental hygiene students under faculty supervision. Local dental practitioners have also “adopted” schools and volunteered their time to provide preventive services to children in their community as part of our program.
Head Start Fluoride Varnish Program
Head Start Programs promote the school readiness of preschool-aged children from low-income households. As part of our collaboration with Head Start Programs in Alachua County, CDBS clinical faculty and staff provide free preventive dental services to enrolled students throughout the school year. This includes a dental exam and biannual applications of fluoride varnish, once in the Fall and again in the Spring.
Parents and guardians of Head Start students also receive oral hygiene education and nutrition counseling to promote healthy habits. For children found to have existing cavities, Silver Diamine Fluoride (SDF) is used to arrest tooth decay and prevent it from further progressing.
Saving Smiles Program
The Saving Smiles Program is an oral health promotion program that aims to tackle untreated tooth decay in Alachua County’s children by offering free, on-site preventive and limited dental care through collaboration with community partners. This program is unique in that it addresses the main barriers for these children in accessing dental care, including cost and transportation.
Children identified in our school-based programs to have unmet dental needs are scheduled to receive problem-based dental treatment, such as resin-based composite fillings and extraction of non-restorable primary teeth.
Parents and guardians also receive individualized oral hygiene education and nutrition counseling to positively impact home care. Since Summer 2020, the Saving Smiles Program has served children and families at Gainesville Housing Authority properties, Partnership for Strong Families sites, and the rural Hawthorne community. The Saving Smiles Program is made possible through funding from the Rotary Club of Gainesville and the Children’s Trust of Alachua County.
Super Sealant Saturday
Super Sealant Saturday is a student-run event providing free preventive dental care and education for children ages 6 – 17 years old.
This annual event takes place at the UF College of Dentistry and provides dental students and faculty the opportunity to serve children in Gainesville and surrounding communities with preventive dental treatments including dental exams, dental sealants, and fluoride varnish applications.
Children and families also receive education about toothbrushing, flossing, and other healthy habits for optimal oral health.