Free infographic: The state of dental sealants in the United States.

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The state of dental sealants in the United States.

Snapshot of infographic: Dental Sealants in the USA.

Snapshot of infographic: Dental Sealants in the USA.

Dental sealants are thin plastic coatings bonded in the grooves of back teeth to prevent tooth decay.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that "sealants can reduce decay in school children by more than 70 percent". (1)

But utilization rates in the US are low.

Percentage of 3rd grade students with dental sealant on at least one permanent tooth.

  • This database's newest data is for 2011 but not all states report as they should.
  • PA and 9 other states. - No report since before 2005.
  • FL and 6 other states. - No reporting.
  • MS is at the low end of states that report with 24%.
  • MN leads the pack of reporting states with 64%.

One goal of the USA's Healthy People 2010 Oral Health program was for 50% of 8 year-old children to have sealants on their permanent molar teeth. (3)

But only about 1/4 of states met, or came close to meeting, this target.

In 2009, 38 states did report having some type of dental sealant program. (4)

These are often community or school-based programs geared at providing sealants for children unlikely to receive them otherwise.

That helps utilization rates because only 20% of children from low-income families have sealants as compared to 40% of those from more affluent ones. (5)

But even this number is low.

These programs often target sealing permanent 1st molars in the second grade and 2nd molars in the sixth grade because they are the teeth at highest risk for tooth decay. (6)

But these programs have a cost ...

  • Studies have estimated around $50 per child.
  • But that's still only about 1/3 the cost of paying for a dental filling.

Data sources: All souces accessed January 2014.

(1) - CDC.gov

(2) & (4) - ASTDD.org data found on CDC.gov. Only data from 2005 and after considered for inclusion. Color coding of states is representative of the data but not exact.

(3) - "Healthy People 2010 Oral Health Toolkit" accessed on NIH.gov.

(5) - "Preventing dental caries through school-based sealant programs." (Gooch 2009) accessed on ADA.org.

(6) - Association of State & Territorial Dental Directors - ASTDD.org

(7) - "Reviews of evidence on interventions to prevent dental caries, oral and pharyngeal cancers, and sports-related craniofacial injuries." (Truman 2002) accessed on NIH.gov. This paper presents data is for the year 2002. We've used the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' "CPI Inflation Calculator" to covert it into 2013 dollars.

(8) - "Costs and savings associated with community water fluoridation programs in Colorado." (Brunson 2005) accessed on NIH.gov. This paper presents data is for the year 2002. We've used the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' "CPI Inflation Calculator" to covert it into 2013 dollars.

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