School-Based Dental Sealant Programs Prevent Cavities And Are Cost-Effective
Author: Susan Griffin, Shillpa Naavaal, Christina Scherrer, Paul M. Griffin, Kate Harris, Sajal Chattopadhyay
Untreated cavities can have far-reaching negative consequences for people’s ability to eat, speak, and learn. By adolescence, 27 percent of low-income children in the United States will have untreated cavities. School-based sealant programs typically provide dental sealants (a protective coating that adheres to the surface of molars) at little or no cost to students attending schools in areas with low socioeconomic status. These programs have been shown to increase the number of students receiving sealants and to prevent cavities. We analyzed the cost-effectiveness of school sealant programs using data (from school programs in fourteen states between 2013 and 2014) on children’s cavity risk, including the effects of untreated cavities on a child’s quality of life. We found that providing sealants in school programs to 1,000 children would prevent 485 fillings and 1.59 disability-adjusted life-years. School-based sealant programs saved society money and remained cost-effective across a wide range of reasonable values.