Last year, the U.S. Community Preventive Services Task Force recommended the use of school-based sealant programs. A new report examines the challenges that states face as they seek to use School Sealant Programs (SSPs) to reduce the rate of cavities. Patrice Pascual, Executive Director for the Children's Dental Health Project, says that sealants are a well-established protective measure for children to avoid cavities. Sealants go over the tooth to act as a protective coating for extra protection against decay.
Pascual says that there are so many children who do not see a dentist regularly and are at a high risk for developing cavities. Through the CDC and the Children's Dental Health Project program, several of them do support school sealants to ensure that kids who are at the highest risk are protected and receiving the sealants. The goal of this is to "reach those high risk kids that are not otherwise getting care," Pascual says.
Having the hygienists apply the sealants is an efficiency that several of the states who have the more established sealant programs use because the ability to have a hygienist under supervision working in these public health settings provides access that may not be available if you were waiting for a dentist, explains Pascual. Because there are kids that are high risk, there is identification in many programs of children who need restorative care and further care with a dental provider. Pascual says this is really a preventive program that "enforces the value of oral health and can also be a gateway for kids getting regular care."
One of the areas that the Childrens Dental Health Program works on is access to care and public benefits. The ADA has done research looking at utilization trends and the growth has been among children who are covered by public insurance programs, such as Medicaid or SCHIP. Even with these programs in place, there are too many families not receiving care who end up in "charity events," which is not a sustainable model for oral health, according to Pascual.
Pascual says you have to reach kids at the right time when it comes to sealants and the age range for that is between 6-9, to capture those molars before they experience decay. The ages between 13-16 is also important to make sure that the sealants are applied well and last. It's really important to make sure the care is getting to kids early so they don't have problems through high school and beyond.
Patric Pascual is the Executive Director of the Children's Dental Health Project in Washington, D.C. For more information on her, click here. She spoke with Dentist News Network, providing online, on-demand, dental news video content. Dentist News Network is a featured network of Sequence Media Group.