CDC: More Dental Sealants Needed Among Low-Income Children

Treatments protect against most cavities – reducing pain and dental costs
Treatments protect against most cavities – reducing pain and dental costs

HealthDay News — Treatments that seal a child's back teeth can prevent most cavities, but many children –particularly those living in poverty – don't get them, according to research published in the October 18 early-release issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Sealants can cut cavities by 80% for up to two years, and by 50% for up to four years, a new CDC report shows. "Unfortunately, most kids don't have them — 40% of kids have dental sealants, but 60% don't," Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, director of the CDC, said during a news conference. "Kids without dental sealants have almost three times more cavities that those who do have sealants." 

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Low-income children are more than twice as likely as children in more affluent families to have untreated tooth decay, the report found. "School-based sealant programs can be a win-win," Frieden said. "Governments, schools, parents, and kids all come out ahead. Dental sealants are simple, quick, easy, and completely painless; there are no unwanted side effects; and the benefits start immediately."

Frieden added that progress has been made with dental sealants in the past decade. In that period, the number of children from low-income families who had dental sealants increased nearly 70%. "This prevented about one million cavities, but still, poorer children are 20% less likely to have sealants than children from higher-income families," he said. "Every tooth that gets sealant saves $11.70 in dental costs." Sealants for 6.5 million low-income children in schools could save up to $300 million in dental care costs.

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