Sealants found to protect Greek teens

They wouldn't be smiling without sealants.

New research from Greece has found that dental sealants reduce the risk of tooth decay in teenagers. The study, which appeared this month in the journal BioMedCentral Public Health, involved about 2,500 children aged either 12 or 15, and was undertaken to help decide whether Greece should establish a national dental sealant program for children.

Only eight per cent of the children in the study had at least one sealed permanent molar. Among the 12-year-old group, 83 per cent of past and current tooth decay was in the back teeth. But children with dental sealants did not have less decay than those without sealants.

In the older age group, the 15-year-olds, 87 per cent of past and current tooth decay was in the back teeth. In this group, sealants helped. Teens with sealants had a 24 per cent decreased risk of tooth decay, compared to those without them.

In both groups, about two-thirds of cavities in the back teeth were found in the pits and grooves of the chewing surfaces. These are the areas that dental sealants protect.

A separate survey of Greek dentists found that 59 per cent believed sealants were helpful in preventing decay. But only 30 per cent used them in their practices. They listed a few main reasons for not using sealants, including dentists now knowing how to use them, parents not being prepared to pay for them and a belief that brushing and flossing were enough to prevent tooth decay.

The researchers suggest that a sealant program could reduce decay in countries that now have high levels of tooth decay in children and low sealant use. Other countries have shown that such a program can reduce decay by as much as 60 per cent in five years.


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