From the Harford County Health Department:
Maryland Secretary of Health and Mental Hygiene, Van T. Mitchell visited Harford County and together with a “Who’s Who” of local governmental leaders, Health Department and Harford County Public Schools (HCPS) representatives, observed a Dental Sealant event hosted by the Harford County Health Department Tuesday afternoon, October 27th in observance of National Dental Hygiene Month.
Among those present were Dr. Harry Goodman, Director of the DHMH Office of Oral Health, Harford County Executive, Barry Glassman, and Harford County Council President, Richard Slutzky. Also in attendance from HCPS were Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Jean Mantegna and Executive Director of Elementary School Performance Angela Morton, representing School Superintendent Barbara Canavan, Nurse Coordinator Mary Nasuta, and William Paca / Old Post Road Elementary School Principal Tammy Bosley. From the Harford County Health Department (HCHD), who hosted the event, Health Officer Susan Kelly, Deputy Health Officer Dr. Russell Moy, Director of Administration Marcy Austin, and Dental Outreach Coordinator Katy Battani were on hand.
Introducing Secretary Mitchell, Susan Kelly emphasized partnerships as key to both the initial launch and maintenance of Harford’s successful oral health initiatives. In his remarks, Secretary Mitchell stated, “We know that good oral health is crucial to overall health in many ways. The work being done to ensure Maryland children get on the pathway to good oral health as early as possible helps to elevate their overall health outcomes.”
County Executive Barry Glassman said of Secretary Mitchell, “He was always a friend of Harford County when I served with him in the Maryland House. Our Health Department, Board of Education and the State have formed a great oral health partnership for our young students.”
Dr. Goodman, himself a long time Harford resident added, “It was especially meaningful to have Secretary Mitchell observe the dental sealant program in action. As Deputy Health Secretary in 2006 and before the tragic death of Deamonte Driver, he had the foresight and vision to be one of the first high level leaders to address the oral health crisis that was at that time bubbling beneath the surface. Without his intervention then, we wouldn’t be where we are currently in oral health and there very likely wouldn’t be a dental sealant program in Harford County operating today.”
HCHD Dental Outreach Coordinator Katy Battani described for attendees how dental sealants are painlessly and easily applied into tiny depressions and grooves on the biting surfaces of permanent molar teeth to “seal out” plaque and food from cavity-vulnerable areas. Research shows that the combination of fluoride and dental sealants are the most effective means to prevent tooth decay.
But the students were the stars. Registered dental hygienist and Health Department Dental Outreach Co-Coordinator Dawn Anthony led the 2nd graders in a discussion of good dental health care habits, including proper brushing and flossing techniques, eating nutritious foods, drinking fluoridated water, and making regular visits to the dentist. Afterward, the adults followed the students to the area where they would receive their dental sealant treatment. While awaiting their turn, students practiced brushing the teeth of animal puppets specially designed for oral hygiene education.
Standing and admiring the young people, Council President, Richard “Coach” Slutzky who spent most of his career as a school health educator commented, “Starting (good oral health practices) early provides far greater assurances that these behaviors will carry them through a lifetime. By providing children access to these services they might not otherwise have, we’re all winners.”
Beginning in August 2014, the Harford County Health Department Dental Program launched the school-based Dental Sealant Program that provides dental screenings, dental sealants, fluoride treatments, oral health education, referrals, and case management services to HCPS 2nd and 3rd graders in Title I schools. In FY15 from July 2014 through June 2015, the Dental Sealant Program, supported by grants from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Office of Oral Health, completed 655 dental screenings and provided 526 fluoride varnish treatments. An additional 1,488 dental sealants were applied on the teeth of 451 public school students. Of those 655 students screened, more than one in three had untreated tooth decay and many were determined to have urgent dental needs.
Now in its 8th year of operation, the Health Department’s Dental Clinic, located at 2204 Hanson Road in the Edgewood Plaza Shopping Center in Edgewood, provides comprehensive dental services to children and pregnant women with Medical Assistance. Since opening its doors, the facility and its staff have recorded almost 50,000 visits in responding to the oral health care needs of nearly 8,000 patients. The clinic provides general and preventive dental care including cleanings, oral examinations, fluoride treatments, fillings and sealants. So far in 2015 alone, they have completed over 4,200 clinical visits.
For more information about Harford County’s public health dental clinic or to schedule an appointment, please call (443) 922-7670 or visit the Health Department’s website at www.harfordcountyhealth.com.