In February 2022, a quiet, hesitant second-grade boy visited the Public Health Sauk County Seal-A-Smile program at his rural elementary school. Before he could even open wide for the dental screening to begin, the dental assistant and registered dental hygienist looked up and caught each other’s eyes. From a distance it was plain to see, this child’s entire mouth was blackened with severe decay. 17 teeth in total were noted with caries, two with extreme structure loss. The student complained of pain, especially when eating.

A phone call home was made to find out how the program could connect the family to care. Dad shared that receiving regular dental care had never been a part of his childhood and as a result he has never, to his regret, made it a part of his children’s lives. They did not currently have dental insurance or a dental home and with dad working days and mom working nights, it had always been a challenge to make appointments.

Through the program’s relationship with an area medical foundation, Public Health Sauk County was able to secure a dental appointment with a local dentist to address the student’s needs at no cost to the family in a time frame that worked for their busy schedule.

A triumphant return

At the program’s second school visit in late spring 2022, the student returned with a shy smile on his face. He laid back in the dental chair and that smile quickly spread like wildfire across the faces of the Seal-A-Smile team members in the room. Every one of his 17 teeth in need had been addressed!

From head to toe he beamed as bright as the sun. Everyone cheered and clapped. “How proud you must be of taking such great care of your teeth and your bravery at the dentist!” we all said. And he was.

He smiled from ear to ear and we talked about how wonderful it will be to brush every morning and night, floss and drink water, so he could keep his teeth looking as fabulous as he is.

And he has. We recently saw him for the first time this year. He is now a growing third grader. He entered our room with notable confidence and his screening showed no new decay. His chest puffed up as he waved goodbye to us until next time.

Seal-A-Smile brightening the future

We often wonder, if the Seal-A-Smile program would not have screened him that day back in 2022 and been able to make the referral for dental care to both a dentist in place willing to see students and an area foundation willing to help cover expenses, how differently his story could have ended.

Through Children’s Health Alliance of Wisconsin (the Alliance), Delta Dental and the Wisconsin Department of Health Service’s (DHS) sponsorship of the Seal-A-Smile program, this student and so many others like him, now have a bright new beginning from the inside, out.

Learn more about our Seal-A-Smile program here.