Mayor's Office Press Release

Houston Health Department Initiative Reaches Milestone in Improving Children’s Oral Health, Removing Academic Barriers

March 24, 2017 -- Project Saving Smiles - a Houston Health Department initiative that provides free dental screenings, dental sealants, fluoride varnishes and oral health education to area second graders - treated its 50,000th child earlier this month.

"Dental sealants are an effective and inexpensive way to prevent cavities, yet only one in three low-income children currently receive them,” said Johanna DeYoung, the department’s oral health bureau chief. “Through Project Saving Smiles, we are able to extend this service to children that might not otherwise receive it."

Project Saving Smiles is operatedout of the health department’s Good Neighbor Health Center on Heights Boulevard.  In addition to receiving dental screenings, sealants and varnishes, children receive information about proper brushing and flossing, nutrition that helps form strong teeth, sugary snacks that cause tooth decay and the benefits of drinking Houston’s fluoridated tap water.

Dental sealants are thin plastic coatings applied to the pits and fissures of the back teeth. They help prevent dental cavities by making the teeth’s chewing side flatter and easier to clean. Fluoride varnishes are coatings applied on the teeth to prevent new cavities and help stop those that have already started.

Project Saving Smiles targets second graders because children 6 and 7 years of age already have their adult molars.
Tooth decay can result in pain and discomfort, problems chewing and swallowing food and poor appearance. Children with oral health problems are unable to learn and reach their full potential because they can't fully concentrate in school.