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  • dental hygienist examining student's teeth

Hawaii Dental Service Foundation has provided a $133,447 grant to continue a public school dental sealant program that screened more than 650 children during the last school year, two thirds of whom received dental sealants at no-cost. The Hawaiʻi Keiki-HDS Dental Sealant Program was developed in 2019, to coordinate dental screenings and provide on-site dental sealants at high-need Title I public elementary schools. Dental sealants help to prevent cavities on permanent molars, and the application of sealants is quick, non-invasive and painless. Sealants are routinely applied by a dentist around second or third grade.

Hawaiʻi Keiki: Healthy & Ready to Learn is a partnership between the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s Nancy Atmospera-Walch School of Nursing (NAWSON) and the Hawaiʻi State Department of Education (HIDOE). The Hawaiʻi Keiki program’s mission is to keep keiki healthy and ready to learn by providing access to school nursing services in Hawaiʻi’s public schools.

The Hawaiʻi Keiki-HDS Dental Sealant Program provides oral health assessments and dental sealants at no-cost and brings licensed dentists and dental hygienists to the school to minimize student’s time away from class. Families of participating students receive assessment reports, referrals and oral care kits, and students who need urgent dental care receive referrals to community dental service providers. With the support of HDS Foundation, Hawaiʻi Keiki school nurses, dentists and dental hygienists are improving oral and overall health of students. The program will continue to screen more HIDOE students during this new school year.

“The schools and parents just love this program because we are providing safe and effective sealants to prevent future cavities,” said Deborah Mattheus, the Hawaiʻi Keiki-HDS Dental Sealant Program director. “In addition to sealing teeth, we are screening students for urgent dental conditions and making referrals to get them immediate care. It is hard to learn if you have sore teeth. We are also teaching the kids about the importance of brushing and flossing daily.”

“HDS is proud to support this important sealant program to safeguard the oral health of HIDOE students,” said Dr. Diane Paloma, president and CEO of Hawaii Dental Service. “Increasing access to dental care in schools helps families establish good oral health habits now to ensure their children have a lifetime of healthy smiles.”

In the last school year, the program screened 653 public school students at 28 schools on Oʻahu, Maui and Kauaʻi, with 430 students, or about 66%, who received dental sealants. Additionally, the screenings identified 31 children who required urgent dental care.

“We are pleased to continue our partnership with HDS Foundation to collaboratively improve oral health and overall health across the state,” said Clementina Ceria-Ulep, interim dean at NAWSON. “Our Hawaiʻi Keiki program is uniquely positioned to provide direct services to public school students.”

Children in Hawai‘i have among the highest rates of dental decay (cavities) in the nation with 71% of Hawai‘i’s third graders experiencing tooth decay, according to a 2015 state Department of Health report. The report found that 7% needed urgent dental care, as compared to the national rate of 1%. Also, more than 60% of third graders in Hawai‘i did not have sealants on permanent molars. The Hawaiʻi Keiki-HDS Dental Sealant Program is proactively working to increase the number of children who receive dental sealants.

“We’re grateful for the significant role HDS Foundation plays as a community partner for UH Mānoa NAWSON, Hawai‘i Keiki and the Hawai‘i Department of Education,” said Tim Dolan, University of Hawai‘i vice president of advancement and CEO of the University of Hawai‘i Foundation. “Mahalo to HDS Foundation for supporting this critical preventive service for Hawai‘i’s keiki.”


If you would like to learn how you can support UH students and programs like this, please contact us at 808 376-7800 or send us a message.

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The University of Hawai‘i Foundation, a nonprofit organization, raises private funds to support the University of Hawai‘i System. The mission of the University of Hawai‘i Foundation is to unite donors’ passions with the University of Hawai‘i’s aspirations by raising philanthropic support and managing private investments to benefit UH, the people of Hawai‘i and our future generations.

The Hawaii Dental Service Foundation was established in 1986 by Hawaii Dental Service to improve oral health in Hawaii. The Foundation’s oral health initiatives include programs such as Seal Away Decay, Dentist by One and Kupuna Smiles. In 2018, the Foundation established the Hawaii Dental Service Community Scholarship Program to support Hawaii students pursuing careers in dentistry or dental hygiene. The Foundation also awards grants to local non-profit organizations for programs and projects that provide oral health education, prevent oral disease, and increase access to dental care for underserved populations. Visit the Hawaii Dental Service Foundation website at

Hawai‘i Keiki is a partnership between the UH Mānoa Nancy Atmospera-Walch School of Nursing and the Hawai‘i Department of Education and sits at the intersection of education and health to support the DOE to achieve student, school, and system success. The program is designed to improve access and quality of health services in the school by coordinating and expanding existing efforts of the partners and community resources. The program is enhancing and building school-based health services that screen for treatable health conditions; provide referral to primary health care and patient centered medical home services; prevent and control communicable disease and other health problems; and provide emergency care for illness or injury. Visit us at    

The UH Mānoa Nancy Atmospera-Walch School of Nursing, the Nursing Capital of the Pacific, is the leader in nursing education and research in Hawai‘i with outreach to Asia and the Pacific Basin. We provide an innovative, caring, and multicultural environment in which faculty, students and staff work together to generate and transmit knowledge, wisdom, and values to promote quality of life and health for present and future generations. The school offers the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs. To reflect Hawai‘i’s unique cultural diversity and heritage, we are committed to increasing the representation of Native Hawaiian and other underserved people in all nursing programs. Visit us at