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Dental Sealants Effective Against Cavities But Most US Children Don’t Have Them: CDC Vital Signs Report

19 October 2016, 10:05 am EDT By Livia Rusu Tech Times
Dental sealants are proven to be highly efficient among children, preventing up to 80 percent of cavities. However, up to 7 million children are in need of dental sealant programs, which could save up to $300 million in dental treatments.  ( Justin Sullivan | Getty Images )

Dental cavities are a common chronic condition in children and teens that could cause infections and speech problems, as well as eating or learning disorders ranging from mild to medium when they're not treated in a timely manner.

A CDC Vital Signs report suggests that dental sealants, however effective as a prevention tool against cavities, are not used by majority of children in the U.S. Low-income families can't afford them, hence the statistic suggesting that children coming from a family with better income and lifestyle have an overall better chance at having dental sealants.

Additionally, the gap between the number of low- and high-income children has decreased, according to the same report, with the number of low-income kids with dental sealants increasing by as much as 70 percent during the last 10 years, which has helped prevent a million dental cavities.

High school-based programs providing dental sealants could save up to $300 million in dental treatment costs, if provided to 7 million low-income kids who do not have access to them.

State officials can pitch in to help make school-based dental sealant programs (SBSP) effective by taking practical action, such as identifying an area in urgent need in the state, and implementing SBSPs there. Doing that could be less complicated than generally believed, as the schools' and kids' SBSP activities could be easily tracked down.

The SBSP policies could also be implemented in a very cost-effective way, so that the investment will be all the more worth it. Schools can be connected with health departments, Medicaid offices and community health centers and professional organizations in order to improve communication and information-related issues on the topic.

What Are Dental Sealants?

Sealants are thin coatings flowing into the teeth grooves and preventing most cavities, particularly when applied soon after the permanent molars' growth, between the ages of 6 and 12. The sealants can be applied by any dental professional, from dentists to hygienists, and the procedure is usually available in schools as well.

Using sealants is the most efficient way to prevent children's cavities in the permanent back teeth, where nine in 10 cavities will appear. Sealants provide excellent protection against as much as 80 percent of cavities for two years, and for 50 percent of the cavities in four years, which can help massively in reducing invasive procedures such as dental fillings or crowns.

"Dental sealants can be an effective and inexpensive way to prevent cavities, yet only 1 in 3 low-income children currently receive them. School-based sealant programs are an effective way to get sealants to children," explained CDC Director Tom Frieden in a press release.

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