The benefits of dental sealant programs for low-income children exceed the costs, according to researchers.

Cavities and fillings were approximately three times more likely among low-income children aged 7-11 years whose teeth were not treated with dental sealants, compared to those treated with sealants, based on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 2011-2014.

Overall, 43% of children and 39% of low-income children in the United States were treated at least once with dental sealant.

Although sealant use in children increased overall from 31% to 44% in a comparison of 1999-2004 and 2011-2014 NHANES data, sealant use was less common among low-income children compared with high-income children (39% vs. 48%) in the 2011-2014 period after increases of 16% and 9%, respectively, during 2011-2014.

School-based programs to provide sealants could increase their use among low-income children, wrote Susan O. Griffin, PhD, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and her associates. The researchers reviewed data from 1,371 low-income children aged 6-11 years, and found that 60% (approximately 6.5 million children), had not been treated with dental sealants. “The systematic review of economic evaluations of school-based sealant programs (SBSP) conducted for the Task Force found that SBSP became cost-saving within 2 years of placing sealants,” the researchers noted.

The data were published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR 2016 Oct 21;65[41];1141-5).