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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Pit and fissure sealants in dental public health – application criteria and general policy in Finland

Sari Kervanto-Seppälä1*, Ilpo Pietilä2, Jukka H Meurman13 and Eero Kerosuo45

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Dentistry, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland

2 Public Dental Health Centre, Pori, Finland

3 Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Diseases, Helsinki University Central Hospital, Helsinki, Finland

4 Institute of Dentistry, University of Turku, Finland

5 Department of Clinical Odontology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Tromsø, Tromsø, Norway

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BMC Oral Health 2009, 9:5  doi:10.1186/1472-6831-9-5

Published: 4 February 2009

Abstract

Background

Pit and fissure sealants (sealants) are widely used as a non-operative preventive method in public dental health in Finland. Most children under 19 years of age attend the community-organized dental health services free of charge. The aims of this study were to find out to what extent sealants were applied, what the attitudes of dental professionals towards sealant application were, and whether any existing sealant policies could be detected among the health centres or among the respondents in general. The study evaluated changes that had taken place in the policies used during a ten year period (1991–2001).

Methods

A questionnaire was mailed to each chief dental officer (CDO) of the 265 public dental health centres in Finland, and to a group of general dentists (GDP) applying sealants in these health centres, giving a total of 434 questionnaires with 22 questions. The response rate was 80% (N = 342).

Results

A majority of the respondents reported to application of sealants on a systematic basis for children with increased caries risk. The criteria for applying sealants and the actual strategies seemed to vary locally between the dentists within the health centres and between the health centres nationwide. The majority of respondents believed sealants had short- and long-term effects. The overall use of sealants decreased towards the end of the ten year period. The health centres (N = 28) choosing criteria to seal over detected or suspected enamel caries lesion had a DMFT value of 1.0 (SD ± 0.49) at age 12 (year 2000) compared to a value of 1.2 (SD ± 0.47) for those health centres (N = 177) applying sealants by alternative criteria (t-test, p < 0.05).

Conclusion

There seems to be a need for defined guidelines for sealant application criteria and policy both locally and nationwide. Occlusal caries management may be improved by shifting the sealant policy from the traditional approach of prevention to interception, i.e. applying the sealants over detected or suspected enamel caries lesions instead of sealing sound teeth.