Oral Health Program
In Fiscal Year (FY) 2022, a total of 53,829 Georgians received dental prevention and treatment services provided by DPH Health Department dental clinics.
5,277 children received protective sealants
Of the 22,030 high-risk children that received oral health screenings starting at age 6 months, 46% also received fluoride varnish
Oral diseases are a major health concern affecting almost every person in Georgia. Dental caries (tooth decay) and periodontal diseases have a huge economic and social cost, and can result in serious systemic problems, pain, and suffering. Most oral diseases are preventable, and the Oral Health Unit makes every effort to promote and implement preventive measures for all of Georgia’s citizens.
Community Water Fluoridation
As of December 2014, 96% of Georgia's population using public water systems received fluoridated water. Water fluoridation has been shown to reduce dental decay by 20-40% in fluoridated communities, and results in a savings of $38 in future dental expenditures for every $1 invested in fluoridation.
School Fluoride Program
- The program targets children who do not have access to community water fluoridation, who do not have access to dental care, who live in rural areas, and who live at, or below, the poverty level. The supplements are free to schools and Head Start Programs that enroll.
- The Self-Applied Fluoride and Education Rinsing Program (SAFER) is a preventive service that has been successfully implemented in many Georgia State schools for over 20 years. Participating children, age 6 and older, use 10ml or 5ml of 0.2% sodium fluoride solution, to rinse for one minute in the classroom.
- Participating children too young to rinse, and who are in Head Start Programs or kindergarten, chew a daily fluoride tablet or use daily fluoride drops, for the prevention of tooth decay.
- School districts or public health professionals interested in the program should contact the Oral Health Program to determine if they qualify.
- Approximately 10,168 school age children received fluoride varnish treatments in FY 2022.
School-Based Dental Sealant Program
Sealants prevent tooth decay and also stop cavities from growing. The Surgeon General's report on oral health indicates that sealants can reduce decay in school children by more than 70 percent.
What Are Dental Sealants?
- Sealants are thin plastic coatings applied to the tiny grooves on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth. This is where most tooth decay in children and teens occurs. Sealants protect the chewing surfaces from decay by keeping germs and pieces of food out.
What is the impact of Dental Sealants
- Sealants prevent tooth decay by creating a barrier between the teeth and decay-causing bacteria. Sealants also stop cavities from growing and can prevent the need for expensive fillings. Sealants are 100 percent effective if they are fully retained on the tooth. According to the Surgeon General’s Year 2000 report on oral health, sealants have been shown to reduce decay by more than 70 percent. The combination of sealants and fluoride has the potential to nearly eliminate tooth decay in school-aged children. Sealants are most cost-effective when provided to children who are at highest risk for tooth decay.
What Are School-Based Sealant Programs?
- School-based dental sealant delivery programs provide sealants to children unlikely to receive them otherwise.
- School-based sealant programs are especially important for reaching children from low-income families who are less likely to receive private dental care. Programs generally target schools by using the percentage of children eligible for federal free or reduced-cost lunch programs. Tooth decay may result in pain and other problems that affect learning in school-age children.
What is Georgia doing?
- The Georgia dental sealant program is a school-based program designed to provide eligible students with dental sealants on their first and second permanent molars to prevent tooth decay. In 2011, the Georgia Third Grade Oral Health BSS found 52% of 3rd grade children in Georgia have a history of tooth decay; 19% have untreated tooth decay; and only 37% of 3rd grade children in GA have protective sealants on their 1st permanent molars.
- Georgia currently has 60 school-based sealant programs operating in 9 districts. Some programs are 100% funded by the state and operate utilizing portable equipment owned by the state; others are funded by the counties and operate in their clinics. The 60 school-based sealant programs currently target elementary schools. All 60 school-based sealant programs operate in schools in which 50% percent or greater of the children enrolled are eligible for the federal free and reduced meal program. For the last 3 years, 60 school-based sealant programs have provided more than 20,000 sealants on elementary children with at least one molar sealant.
- The GOHPP has guidelines to help the Sealant Programs by providing principles in best practices. For example, school-based programs for which sealant application is the primary program objective. In addition to placing sealants, the Sealant Programs deliver fluoride treatments and provide oral health education to children.
- To increase and maintain the efficiency of the sealant programs we address the following issues:
- Consent. One to two weeks in advance of the date of the event consent forms are sent out and collected as this will allow time for health histories to be reviewed and charts to be prepared. Also, if forms are returned without complete information, including signatures, there will still be time to resend to parents for completion.
- Scheduling. In programs covering a large geographic area, schools are scheduled based on their close proximity to each other. When scheduling screenings, sealants, or education classes that only require a partial day, schedule retention will check a school nearby to fill the balance of the day.
- Availability. Scheduling checks with the school nurse, teacher, and/or principal to make sure there are no field trips, testing, special guests, parties, etc., already scheduled for the classes being screened for, or receiving, sealants.
Dental Health Education
Public Health dental hygienists teach school children the importance of proper brushing, flossing, and good nutrition for good dental health. More than 32,999 school children were reached in Fiscal Year (FY) 2022.
Screening and Referral
Dental inspections of the mouth are performed to see if there are any dental or oral problems. The most common dental problems that children have are dental decay, gum disease, and malocclusion. Most of these problems are preventable. Early diagnosis and prompt treatment can eliminate pain, infection, and progressive oral diseases.
If a child is found to have oral health problems, a referral note is sent to the parent/guardian regarding the child's condition and detailing available resources. More than 22,030 school children were screened and referred for treatment in FY 2022 through public health dental programs.
First priority for treatment is given to children who need emergency dental services because of pain or infection, and who are eligible for the Free and Reduced Meal Program (185% Federal Poverty Level).
Basic dental treatment services include:
- Dental sealants
- Fluoride varnish
- Silver (amalgam) and tooth colored (composite) fillings
- Stainless steel crowns
- Endodontic treatments
- Root canal therapy
Clinic locations and hours depend on local and state resources available. Information about specific dental services, hours, and location of services can be obtained by visiting the Georgia Oral Health Coalition - Map of Dental Sites or find your local public health dentist on the Service Locator by zip code.
Payment for dental treatment services are based on a sliding fee scale based upon ability to pay. Many health departments have a minimal administrative fee.
Public health dental services are provided to children who are enrolled in Medicaid and PeachCare programs, as well as to low-income patients on a sliding-fee scale (based on the patient’s ability to pay).
Oral Health Program
Page last updated 12/13/2022