Fall 2013

Report Card on Sealants

Most states are not doing enough to ensure that low-income children have access to dental sealants, according to a 2013 survey done by the nonprofit Pew Center on the States, which awarded letter grades to all 50 states, based on the availability of sealant programs.

Roughly two-thirds of states do not have such programs in a majority of their high-need public school systems, and that jeopardizes children’s oral health and contributes to overall increases in health-care costs and Medicaid expenses, the report said.

School-based programs “are the best way to reach kids, especially kids in need,” says Wanda Wright, an assistant professor of public health and community service at Tufts School of Dental Medicine. The Pew report estimates that the cost of applying sealants is approximately one-third that for filling a cavity.

Five states—Maine, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, North Dakota and Alaska—earned an “A” from Pew for providing access to preventive care. Five others—Hawaii, New Jersey, Montana, North Carolina and Wyoming—earned an F.

Massachusetts and seven other states earned a B. “A lot of the schools in the central and western part of the state don’t have [sealant] programs,” Wright says. “We’re doing pretty well in Boston, but even still, some schools are not covered.”

The report is available at http://www.pewstates.org/research/reports/falling-short-85899434875.

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