Mother and child at dentist office

Sometimes parents get in the mindset that dental problems–like cavities–aren’t too big of a deal. After all, that’s why you go for the dentist for a filling. However, we should all evaluate how we use our dental visits: are you going in to fix a problem or are you going in to prevent a problem? Ideally it should be the latter, especially when it comes to our children’s health.

And even though children’s primary teeth will eventually fall out, these teeth are still quite necessary to not only avoid infection and pain, but to help children get proper nutrition (children aren’t going to want to eat crunchy celery if their teeth hurt) and to help them develop proper speech patterns.

To combat dental caries, the CDC recommends that parents look into preventative methods like dental sealants, whether at their local dentist’s office, or through programs like Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). In fact, just released a study last month about how sealant programs in schools were cost-effective:

School-based Sealant Programs Save Money

Programs that provide dental sealant to children at schools are cost-effective and prevent the need for many fillings, according to a new study published in the December issue of Health Affairs.


The results, which were published in Health Affairs, provide useful information for comparing school-based sealant programs with other alternatives. These programs typically provide sealants at little or no cost to children attending schools with a large population of low-income families who do not receive regular dental care.


“Increasing sealant prevalence among low-income children could save society money and decrease toothaches and their sequelae,” the study authors wrote (Health Affairs, December 2016, Vol. 35:12, pp. 2233-2240).


The study was led by Susan Griffin, PhD, a health economist in the division of oral health at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and included other researchers from the CDC and U.S. universities . . .


The authors added that baseline screening data from the school-based sealant programs in the states included in their analysis found that the programs were serving children at high risk for cavities who were unlikely to use clinical dental services. A third of them had at least one cavity needing treatment in a permanent or primary tooth, compared with the national average of 20%.


“In the absence of access to restorative care, prevention becomes even more critical to long-term dental health,” they concluded.

Of course this study did point out that labor costs are a concern, especially when the program requires more than one dentist on-site. However, the long-term benefits should outweigh the initial costs. Because sealants can cut down infections from cavities and the need for fillings, inlays, onlays, extraction, root canals, and the like, it’s well worth a community with many low-income families to look into these kinds of programs.

A post by Sarah Fossum outlines some more benefits of dental sealants:

3 Reasons to Consider Sealants for Your Child

Cavities are the most common chronic disease among children and that untreated decay affects 19.5% of 2- to 5-year-olds and 22.9% of 6- to 19-year-olds.


Luckily there are sealants, which can reduce childhood tooth decay by more than 70%. A dental sealant is a thin, plastic coating that prevents food and bacteria from getting stuck in the grooves and pits of molars and premolars.


It’s recommended children get sealants once they get their permanent teeth. Here are 3 reasons why:
1. Extra Protection

Children are just learning about dental hygiene and may not be properly removing food and plaque from every nook and cranny. Sealants will provide extra protection during these cavity-prone years.
2. Easy and Painless

If your child gets nervous at the dentist, rest assured that sealants are a painless and quick procedure. There are no needles and no drills, and the whole process takes 15 minutes on average.
3. Long Lasting

Sealants can last for up to 10 years! Make sure to periodically check in with your dentist to ensure that your child’s sealants are still intact and don’t have any chips or cracks.

Seventy percent reduction rates in cavities is a pretty amazing number–especially since the sealant procedure is so short and easy to perform. If parents can shift their focus away from fixing a problem to preventing a problem, then pediatric dentistry will be able to thrive.

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