Dental Sealants Prevent Cavities
Dental cavities are one of the most common chronic conditions among children and teens. Left untreated, cavities can cause pain and infection and problems in eating, speaking, and learning. A new CDC Vital Signs report reveals that, even though dental sealants are an extremely effective intervention for preventing most of the cavities children get in their permanent back teeth, the majority of children still don’t have them. Children from low-income families, who are at increased risk for cavities, are less likely than children from higher-income families to have dental sealants.
Additional findings of the report include
- The disparity in sealant prevalence between low- and higher-income children decreased. The number of low-income children with sealants increased by about 70% in the last decade. This increase prevented almost 1 million cavities.
- Providing dental sealants through school-based programs to the nearly 7 million low-income children who don’t have them could save up to $300 million in dental treatment costs.
State officials play an important role in increasing children’s access to school-based dental sealant programs (SPSP) in their states. Officials can
- Target school-based sealant programs to the areas of greatest need in their state. They can track the number of schools and children participating in SBSPs.
- Implement policies that deliver SBSPs in the most cost-effective manner.
- Connect schools with health departments, Medicaid offices, community health centers, and dental professionals and organizations.
For more information about the benefits of dental sealants and the effectiveness of school-based sealant programs, visit CDC’s Oral Health and School-Based Dental Sealant Programs sites, as well as the Community Guide recommendations regarding how school-based sealant programs prevent cavities and save money.
Katherine Weno, DDS, JD
“Programs that provide sealants to children at school are a win/win for everyone. When these programs target children from low-income families, they can be financially sustained by, and cost-saving, for state Medicaid programs. Also, because children will have healthier mouths, they won’t need as many fillings or be distracted by dental pain.”
Katherine Weno, DDS, JD – NCCDPHP Senior Advisor
Susan Griffin, PhD
“We have made great strides in reducing the disparity between low- and higher-income children when it comes to getting sealants. While our work is far from over, the number of children from low-income families with sealants increased by 70% up to 2014. This increase prevented almost 1 million cavities.”
Susan Griffin, PhD – CDC Division of Oral Health, Health Economist
- Press Release: School dental-sealant programs could prevent most cavities, lower treatment costs in vulnerable children – English | Spanish
- MMWR – Vital Signs: Dental Sealant Use and Untreated Tooth Decay Among U.S. School-Aged Children
- Vital Signs: Home | October 2016 Vital Signs | Fact Sheet PDF 2.41 MB | Topics
- Vital Signs: (Spanish) Home | 2016 Octubre – Signos Vitales | Fact Sheet PDF 1.99MB | Topics
- American Dental Association – Evidence-based clinical practice guideline for the use of pit-and-fissure sealants
- Journal of the American Dental Association – Preventing Dental Caries Through School-Based Sealant Programs
- Journal of Dental Research: The Effectiveness of Sealants in Managing Caries Lesions
- Journal of the American Dental Association: The Effect of Dental Sealants on Bacteria Levels in Caries Lesions: A Review of the Evidence
- Journal of the American Dental Association: Exploring Four-Handed Delivery and Retention of Resin-Based Sealants
- Journal of the American Dental Association: A Comparison of the Effects of Toothbrushing and Handpiece Prophylaxis on Retention of Sealants
- Journal of the American Dental Association: Caries Risk in Formerly Sealed Teeth
- The Community Guide – Improving Oral Health
- Association of State & Territorial Dental Directors – Best Practice Approach Report- School-based Dental Sealant Programs
- National Maternal & Child Oral Health – Seal America
- Children’s Dental Health Project – Dental Sealants: Proven to Prevent Tooth Decay
- Pew Charitable Trusts – States Stalled on Dental Sealant Programs
- Page last reviewed: October 18, 2016
- Page last updated: October 18, 2016
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