School-based dental program reduces cavities by more than half

school-based dental
Photo: Iakov Filimonov 123RF

A school-based cavity prevention program involving nearly 7000 elementary school students reduced cavities by more than 50 per cent, according to a US study. 

The study—published in The Journal of the American Dental Associationwas conducted by researchers at NYU College of Dentistry in 33 public, high-need elementary schools in Massachusetts, where dental hygienists provided care to 6927 children. The services were provided at no cost to families. 

Twice-yearly visits involved dental examinations followed by cavity prevention and treatment, including fluoride varnish, sealants, and minimally invasive fillings to stabilise cavities without drilling. Students also received oral hygiene instructions, toothbrushes, and fluoride toothpaste to take home. If more complex care was required, students were referred to local dentists. 

After six visits, the prevalence of untreated cavities decreased by more than 50 per cent. In one group of schools, cavities were reduced from a baseline of 39 per cent to 18 per cent, and in a second group, cavities decreased from 28 per cent to 10 per cent. The prevention program reduced cavities in both baby and permanent teeth.

“In 2010, the Federal Government set a goal of reducing the prevalence of cavities in children by 10 per cent by 2020,” the study’s senior author Professor Richard Niederman said. 

“Our study shows that this is not only feasible, but also that a comprehensive school-based program can reduce cavities by five times their goal.” 


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