In this study, I describe parents’ experiences with a rural school-based dental sealant project (SBSP), a Healthy People 2020 objective for optimizing population-level protection against dental decay and reducing oral health disparities.
I conducted parent interviews (N = 16) and coded them with NVivo 10, using deductive and inductive codes, from which I identified themes.
Parents enrolled children in the SBSP based on their confidence in local public institutions and the project’s convenience and accessibility. Parents did not understand the prevention orientation of the project, what services were offered or delivered, service limitations, or next steps, in particular their need to complete referrals to dentists. Parents’ recommendations for program improvement included strengthening communications and reviving a defunct dental public health mobile unit that had previously treated children’s existing dental problems.
SBSPs should proactively identify and address family and contextual factors when planning and implementing projects. SBSPs should also strengthen case management capacity, collaborate with schools to bolster communications and message clarification, and be relieved of administrative and duplicate travel burdens that impede team members’ capacity to fulfill technical and case management-oriented duties, namely support the transition and maintenance of children into dental homes.