There are several options for applying dental sealants in a school setting: (1) setting up a dental clinic within a school-based health center, (2) outfitting a mobile van with dental equipment, or (3) using portable dental equipment in the school.
Some health centers are located at schools. These centers are designed to serve students who have limited access to care as well as those from families with low incomes who are uninsured or underinsured. Services provided in school-based health centers emphasize prevention as well as early identification and treatment of physical and behavioral health concerns. Each school-based health program is different, but services may include
Dental clinics have been set up on a permanent and semi-permanent basis in some school-based health centers. Often, clinics offer preventive and restorative oral health care (including dental sealants) to students enrolled in the school, thereby serving as a dental home. Permanent dental clinics usually use traditional equipment similar to that found in a private dental practice. Semi-permanent clinics can be outfitted with portable equipment or a combination of traditional and portable equipment.
The cost of outfitting a dental sealant program in a school-based dental clinic is comparable to if not slightly less expensive than that of outfitting a portable school-based dental sealant program. Often the equipment in a clinic is secondhand or donated, particularly if traditional equipment is used. As noted previously, however, fixed school-based clinics can offer preventive and restorative oral health care. A dentist or dental therapist must be on site to provide restorative care, and additional equipment and supplies are needed (e.g., hand pieces, X-ray machines, restorative material). These added requirements significantly increase program costs.
Working conditions in fixed school-based dental clinics tend to be better than those in portable school-based dental sealant programs, where the dental sealant team often work in hallways, gymnasiums, or other high-traffic locations. In fixed school-based dental clinics, equipment does not have to be transferred from one school to another, which eliminates the extra time and effort needed to set it up and break it down.
However, fixed school-based dental clinics lack the flexibility of portable school-based dental sealant programs. Students from other schools in the district must be transported to fixed clinics for placement of dental sealants, which requires escorting them on foot or transporting them by bus or van. Usually, a group of students are transported to the clinic at one time, and they stay at the clinic until every student’s work is complete. This allows for an efficient workflow within the dental clinic, but it keeps students outside the classroom for a much longer period of time than would be necessary if sealants were applied in their home school using portable equipment.