Students at Ebarb School in Sabine Parish were the first to receive dental sealants in more than a year through Well-Ahead Louisiana’s Louisiana Seals Smiles program, in partnership with the Southwest Louisiana Area Health Education Center (SWLAHEC)’s AHEC of a Smile program.
Well-Ahead’s replicable Louisiana Seals Smiles program supports the delivery of dental sealants in schools through eligible partners statewide. Louisiana Seals Smiles helps partners promote, coordinate, implement and evaluate school sealant programs at schools located in Dental Health Professional Shortage Areas—parts of the state where there are too few dentists to serve the population—and where at least 50% of the students qualify for federal or state free/reduced meal programs.
When the COVID-19 pandemic caused schools to transition to a virtual environment in early 2020, school-based dental sealant programs could no longer be conducted throughout the nation. In response to this challenge, Well-Ahead collaborated with partners to develop educational activities, share resources and disseminate oral health kits to schools and communities.
In early 2021, Well-Ahead’s partner AHEC of a Smile was contacted by Ebarb Principal, Amy Johnson, about conducting a school sealant program for the lower grades. A clinic was successfully conducted Mar. 26—one full year since the last school-based, school-linked sealant clinic was offered in the state through Louisiana Seals Smiles.
Michael Broussard, SWLAHEC’s director of Community Resources and School Sealant Coordinator, noted that extra safety protocols were put into place due to COVID-19. Normally the children are taken one grade at a time; for this clinic it was one class at a time. The clinic was held in a large room that allowed for social distancing, with dental chairs in opposite corners to complete screenings and apply dental sealants. The school nurse helped to provide the educational component to the children, as well as coordinate the classes.
A total of 32 students were screened that day from 1st through 6th grade, with 20 students receiving a total of 49 sealants. All of the children also got fluoride treatments.
Well-Ahead, AHEC of a Smile and other partners are looking forward to resuming the school sealant program when students return to class in the fall. SWLAHEC’s AHEC of a Smile program is funded by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Louisiana Foundation.
Since 2012, Louisiana Seals Smiles has screened 8,704 children and provided nearly 5,000 with sealants, improving their oral health and protecting them against cavities.