Contributor: Raza Qadir
The common underlying theme among the many initiatives of MedEq’s Oral Health Committee is prevention. A key aspect within the goals of this committee is that various chronic issues, such as tooth decay, are preventable through healthy daily habits and specific, effective treatments. While the importance of oral hygiene and straying away from harmful habits continues to be made abundantly clear, today we hone in on a specific preventative treatment in the form of dental sealants.
Dental sealants can serve as a valuable tool, specifically towards underprivileged populations where access and education towards a healthy mouth are highly limited. They are commonly applied towards the younger population to prevent further oral health concerns. It is applied to the teeth as a plastic coating, serving as a protective barrier. Small food particles and bacteria that are common culprits for tooth decay and cavities are then blocked out of vulnerable areas in the mouth (1). These sealants can last up to many years, and can be reapplied during checkups. For this reason, this service is many times utilized in mission trip settings and school based systems. Children and adults that struggle to keep their teeth clean, have a lack of access to dental supplies, and those that are forced to consume unhealthy foods due to poor economic status, can all immensely benefit through this route.
The unfortunate aspect of this system is that it is severely underutilized, and not applied nearly as much as it should. This is due to a combination of dentists not applying sealants at the appropriate rate, and lack of awareness from the general population in asking about them. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that only about 20 percent of children at poverty level and only 40 percent of kids from higher-income homes receive sealants. This is despite recommendations from The American Dental Association that children should receive dental sealants as soon as their adult teeth are out. Additionally, less than 40% of Dentists are following these protocols (2). As a result, families need to be proactive in seeking sealants from dental offices, in turn increasing its demand and prevalence.
Look for future efforts from MedEq’s oral health committee in partnerships to provide mobile services in school based sealant systems.
"Sealants and Dental Health." WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 17 Feb. 2016. <http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/dental-sealants>.
""WHAT ARE DENTAL SEALANTS?"" Dr Tim Verwest. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Feb. 2016. <http://drverwest.com/what-are-dental-sealants-and-does-my-child-need-them/>.