Pilot Program to Fight Tooth Decay Now Permanent

Offers Fluoride Varnish Applications to Needy Preschool Kids

Contact:Guillermo Cole, Health Department
412-578-8004 office

In recognition of National Children’s Dental Health Month in February, the Allegheny County Health Department is pleased to announce that a pilot project  to fight tooth decay in needy preschool children is now a regular part of its Dental Program.

The pilot project, completed in 2010-2011 and funded by a $62,000 grant from the Highmark Foundation, provided more than 1,000 preschool children in 38 Head Start sites countywide with free protective fluoride varnish applications.

The Health Department is able to sustain the initiative and make it self-supporting by obtaining re-imbursements for the fluoride varnish applications as a covered service under medical assistance and other third-party insurance programs.

The initiative can now visit all 57 Head Start sites operated by the Allegheny Intermediate Unit and the Pittsburgh Public Schools twice a year at six-month intervals to provide fluoride varnish applications to about 2,000 preschool children.

Fluoride varnish is highly effective in preventing tooth decay and has been shown to reduce cavities by as much as 33 percent in preschool children.  Applications are recommended every six months, but many disadvantaged youth rarely receive them.

As a result, such children often have very high rates of untreated tooth decay, which can sometimes lead to serious infection and advanced gum disease.

A thin protective coating painted on the teeth, fluoride varnish strengthens the teeth and not only helps prevent new cavities from forming but may also slow or stop small cavities that have already started.

The varnish is applied quickly and easily, taking only about two minutes per child.  It has a mild, pleasant taste and is painted on all surfaces using a disposable applicator.

The fluoride varnish initiative complements the Health Department’s long-standing school-based dental sealant program that targets needy second graders and sixth graders and fights tooth decay by applying sealant to permanent molars.

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