The Pew Center recently released a report on dental sealants across the country, grading each state (and D.C.) on its performance in providing sealants. The grades failed to impress: only 5 states (Alaska, Maine, New Hampshire, North Dakota, and Wisconsin) received the top grade of an “A,” and 20 states received either a “D” or an “F.”
The center awarded its highest grades to states which provided dental sealants in over 75% of high-risk schools with minimal restrictions. Forty states, as well as Washington, D.C., were unable to confirm that 50% of children had received sealants – a minimum standard set by the federally sponsored Healthy People program. And rules still persist in many states that require an examination by a dentist before children can receive sealants from a hygienist, a step that has been deemed unnecessary by research.
Massachusetts received a “B” under the metric. Although over 50% of high-risk schools in the state now have sealant programs, the state has not yet reached the 75% standard, and some unnecessary restrictions still remain in place.
This is an important reminder that we have a way to go before we can declare victory on dental disease. We have solutions to prevent this disease; yet more than one in four MA children enters school with a history of dental decay. By approaching this issue with community and state-wide solutions – providing access to screenings, fluoride, and of course sealants (which can reduce tooth decay more than 70 percent (PDF))– we can eliminate dental disease and give our children the healthy childhood that they deserve.