Children's Oral Health




Overall health is closely connected to healthy gums, teeth, tongue, and mouth.

According to the Center for Pediatric Dentistry, early checkups help prevent cavities and tooth decay, which can lead to pain, trouble concentrating and other medical issues.  Children with healthy teeth chew food easily, learn to speak clearly and smile with confidence

Caring for the oral health of our children involves a team of professionals that work across the community.

In collaboration with the Hawaii Department of Health (DOH), Head Start Collaboration Office, and Hawaii Head Start and Early Head Start programs, HCAN is conducting a statewide oral health screening project.

The project started in October 2017 and focuses on Hawaii keiki who are most at risk for cavities, builds upon the foundation set by the DOH’s Hawaii Smiles statewide third-grade screening project two years ago. The third-grade screening project found:

  • 71% have tooth decay, which is higher than the national average of 52%
  • 22% have untreated tooth decay, indicating they are not receiving dental care
  • about 7% are in need of urgent dental care because of pain or infection
  • there are significant oral health disparities by income as well as by race/ethnicity


The current project will look at younger children and include an oral health screening for every child enrolled in the Head Start and Early Head Start programs.  Altogether, more than 2,970 children at more than 100 Head Start and Early Head Start sites statewide will have a dental screening in this school year. 

The health department will use this data on the oral health of these young children to inform the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and develop policies and programs to improve the oral health of children across Hawaii.

The Hawaii Smiles statewide screening team is composed of dentists and dental hygienists from the public and private sectors who will evaluate the extent of cavities in these children, provide oral health educational materials for parents and teachers, and offer recommendations for follow-up dental care.