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W.Va.'s dental sealant program receives boost

State officials say a dental sealant program, which recently got a $1.5 million boost from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention grant, could set the foundation for good dental health.

The West Virginia Oral Health Program will receive $310,600 annually for five years. 

The program stems from 2009 efforts by the Appalachian Regional Commission, Claude W. Benedum Foundation and Marshall University, explained Jason Roush, state dental director for the West Virginia Oral Health Program.

Roush said the state's oral health plan made sealant programs an objective in 2010.

"WVDHHR has been a partner in these efforts since 2009 and this is an opportunity for statewide expansion and sustainability," Roush said. "This program is the first step in that direction."

According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, dental sealants are "thin plastic coatings that protect the surfaces of children's back teeth from tooth decay."

A report released earlier this year from The PEW Center on the States gave a C to West Virginia for dental sealants.

The report said 25 percent to 49 percent of the state's high-need schools had sealant programs and the goal is to reach 75 percent or more.

West Virginia also was docked when it came to restrictions on applying sealants. The report said West Virginia had some restrictions, where a dentist's exam sometimes is required before hygienists apply sealants. 

Roush said West Virginia recently allowed public health hygienists working with a dentist for establishment of a dental home to provide these services.

"West Virginia's focus is on assuring the state oral health plan objectives are met and that every child in West Virginia has access to education, preventive services and establishment of a dental home," Roush said.

The CDC grant will allow the program to reach 109 elementary schools throughout the state, according to the DHHR.

Right now, Roush said 16 schools have been identified for the program. These comprise: Burke Street Elementary in Berkeley County; Junior Elementary in Barbour County; Peyton Elementary in Cabell County; Ansted Elementary in Fayette County; J.E. Robbins Elementary, Watts Elementary and Mary C. Snow West Side Elementary, all in Kanawha County; Midway Elementary in Lincoln County; Buffalo Elementary in Logan County; Southside K-8 in McDowell County; Spanishburg Elementary in Mercer County; Tunnelton-Denver Elementary in Preston County; Anna Jarvis Elementary in Taylor County; East Lynn Elementary in Wayne County and Franklin Elementary and Jefferson Elementary in Wood County.

"Any child is eligible for services offered through the program," Roush said. "The program encourages patients to use their dentist if they have one for these services. This effort is key to this program since it highlights the importance of the private-public partnership. With this program, as with all programs in the school, children will need parental consent to be able to participate."

And he hopes this will be a good stepping-stone to improve overall dental health in the Mountain State.

"To truly fix the oral health crisis in West Virginia and across the country, there needs to be more emphasis on oral health education and prevention across the lifespan," Roush said. "The West Virginia Dental Sealant program is the first step in that process of keeping our children happy, healthy with good oral health."

Contact writer Andrea Lannom at or 304-348-5148. Follow her at


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