Contributed by Scenic Bluffs Community Health Centers

During Children’s Dental Health Month, Scenic Bluffs raises awareness on the importance of dental sealants

The American Dental Association (ADA) celebrates Children’s Dental Health Month every February. This month is dedicated to raising awareness on the importance of oral health in children. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, tooth decay has become the most common chronic childhood disease, affecting 52% of children by the time the age of 6. Tooth decay not only causes pain, but can also lead to problems with eating, speaking and learning. Kids who suffer from poor oral health are more likely to miss school and receive lower grades as a result of dental pain.

Scenic Bluffs hygienist Joni Mellem

About 90% of tooth decay in permanent teeth occurs in the chewing surfaces of the back teeth. Much of this decay could be prevented with the application of dental sealants. In an effort to combat early childhood tooth decay, Scenic Bluffs offers the School Oral Health Program in 25 local schools and Head Start programs across the region. This program provides preventive oral health care services to students at no cost to families. This program provides an oral health assessment, dental sealants and fluoride applications (when appropriate) in both the fall and spring at schools. 

Dental sealants are a proven method to prevent cavities in the pits and fissures of permanent molars. According to the Centers for Disease Control, “School sealant programs are a highly effective way to deliver sealants to children who are less likely to receive private dental care.” 

Registered dental hygienist Joni Mellem, the school oral health program coordinator at Scenic Bluffs, has seen the impact of the program year after year. “By placing dental sealants and fluoride treatment on teeth at an early age, we are seeing fewer students with tooth decay as they get older.” 

Mellem not only provides oral health services in schools, but also works with families to refer them to additional services. “If further dental care is needed, and the child doesn’t have a dental home, we work to get them into Scenic Bluffs to see a dentist and start a treatment plan,” Mellem says. 

Western Wisconsin is considered a health professional shortage area for dental health services. Uninsured families, or those with Medicaid, experience additional access barriers to affordable care, as few providers in the region accept Medicaid insurance for dental services. By providing these services in the region, Scenic Bluffs strives to close the gap in health access barriers. 

For more information on how to prevent tooth decay in children, visit To see if your child’s school offers the school oral health program, visit