The data supporting the claim that dental sealants help prevent tooth-decay is plentiful. The state of Colorado put out this Dental Sealant fact sheet, highlighting all of the research supporting tooth sealants near-perfect prevention of tooth decay and cavities. Perhaps this push for good information about tooth sealant is why Colorado was one of the few states that got a B, according to a PEW study.
The Pew study considered a number of factors contributing to the availability of dental sealants for kids. One of these characteristics is assessing states’ progress towards achieving the Healthy People Objectives, for the percentage of kids that received preventative care from school-based dental sealant programs. Unfortunately, even Colorado failed to provide sealant up to the standards of the Healthy People Objectives.
PEW’s study, Falling Short: Most States Lag on Dental Sealants, bases their grades for states on four characteristics:
Low-income or high-needs schools offer school-based dental sealant programs.
No restrictions on dental-hygienist administering dental sealants without a dentist.
Frequently collect and submit data regarding the dental health of school-aged kids in their state, to a national dental health database.
Meeting the federal Healthy People Objectives for the percentage of school-aged children with dental sealants.
As far as overall grades go, only 13 states received above a C grade. Those states were: Alaska*, Washington State, Oregon, Idaho, Colorado, North Dakota*, Minnesota, Wisconsin*, Maine*, New Hampshire*, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Maryland. Every other state received a C or below. California and New York, both got Cs. All of the states that received good grades do have smaller populations than New York and California, so perhaps state legislators could use data from these states as a model to reaching success in their own, much larger states.
Each state was graded according to each characteristic as well. When it came to reaching the Healthy People Objectives, 10 states met the goal laid out for kids receiving dental sealants. Those states were Alaska, Washington state, Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio, Maine, and New Hampshire. Hopefully, in the future, states will make the changes necessary to provide kids who need it, with access to tooth sealants, so they can prevent tooth decay.
Dental sealants help protect against tooth decay, and tooth decay is the number one cause of periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is linked to a number of more serious health issues, from diabetes to heart disease. When you look at school-based dental sealant programs a preventative measure, access to tooth-sealant becomes more clear as to why it’s vital for public health. Hopefully, the success of some states, will inspire, and help pave the ways for others, so we can help prevent periodontal disease in the next generation.
* All these states received overall grades of A, the rest on the list received B grades.