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A Closer Look at Dental Sealants

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Systematic review shows them to be powerful decay fighters

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Systematic review shows them to be powerful decay fighters

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News By Profession

Dental Health

Systematic review shows them to be powerful decay fighters

By Valerie Neff Newitt

When working in a dental practice, it is particularly important to provide patients with evidence that every procedure is worth their time, effort and cost. Recent headlines have cast doubt on the importance of dental flossing. Case in point: The New York Times topped an Aug. 3 article with the headline, "Dental Floss May Not Improve Your Health," a declaration that likely threw shivers down the spines of many an advocating dental assistant and dentist alike.

So when evidence strongly supports a preventive procedure, it's important to be armed with the facts and share them with patients. Dental offices -- from assistants to dentists -- can now take advantage of quantifiable evidence that shows the application of dental sealants to pediatric teeth affords patients better outcomes. A new systematic review and updated clinical practice guideline from the American Dental Association (ADA) and American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) show dental sealants are a powerful and effective therapy in the fight against childhood dental decay and disease.

According to information provided by ADA and AAPD, "although tooth decay is largely preventable, it remains the most common chronic disease of children aged 6 to 11 years (21%), and adolescents aged 12 to 19 years (58%), based on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) report of 2011-2012."2

Sealants Shown Effective
The systematic literature review ("Sealants for Preventing and Arresting Pit-and-Fissure Occlusal Caries in Primary and Permanent Molars," in conjunction with, "Evidence-based Clinical Practice Guideline for the Use of Pit-and-Fissure Sealants," published in the August issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association, as well as the July/August issue of AAPD's Pediatric Dentistry Journal) evaluated the use and effectiveness of dental sealants as a preventive strategy for reducing dental disease in children, analyzing outcomes such as caries incidence, sealant retention and possible adverse effects.3,4

Dental Sealant"Sealants are a proven and effective therapy for preventing cavities in children and teens. Oral disease can greatly impact one's concentration and self-esteem and contributes to more than 51 million hours of missed school each year," said lead author Timothy Wright, DDS, MS. "The joint report reaffirms that sealants should be a routine part of cavity prevention, as children with sealants are up to 80% less prone to cavities compared to those without them. The new guideline gives clear direction for dentists to best use sealants to improve the oral health of their patients."

Dental sealants are applied typically to pits and fissures of posterior teeth, known as molars, and act as a barrier to keep the decay-causing bacteria from the tooth. Sealants not only prevent new decay but can also stop existing initial decay from developing into a cavity.3

The ADA has made available an excellent downloadable patient education page that explains what sealants are, who they most benefit, how they are applied, how long they last and more.5 The page, designed to prompt discussion between dental care providers and patients, may be reproduced without permission for use as an educational tool.

Valerie Newitt is on staff at ADVANCE. Contact:


1. Victor, D. Dental floss my not improve your health. But what else can you do with it? The New York Times. Aug. 3, 2016.
2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dental Sealants.
3. Wright, JT, et al. Sealants for preventing and arresting pit-and-fissure occlusal caries in primary and permanent molars. The Journal of the American Dental Association. 147(8):631-645.e18.
4. Wright, JT, et al. Evidence-based clinical practice guideline for the use of pit-and-fissure sealants. The Journal of the American Dental Association. 147(8):672-682.e12.
5. Mark, AM. Dental sealants. The Journal of the American Dental Association. 147(8):692. 


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