The health of the average American is in a state of decline and decreasing dental health is also part of trend. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has noted that untreated tooth decay is the norm for approximately one-third of all adults and that the condition affects more than one-fourth of U.S. children aged 2–5 years. Dental sealants have long been tauted as a type of preventative dentistry for the latter, however the dental treatment is shrouded in controversy.
In children, tooth decay most commonly starts in the back of the mouth and factors such as poor oral hygiene and poor nutrition are the biggest contributor to the dental problem. Combined those behaviors can cause levels of dental plaque (and subsequently tooth decay) to rise. For decades dental sealants have been applied to prevent cavities in children and while the plastic coatings may indeed reduce dental problems from developing, there are other risks that have caused dental sealants to be shrouded in controversy.
1800Dentist.com notes that dental sealants are "Made of plastic resin, these tooth sealants are applied to the grooves of premolars and molars to seal-out cavity-causing bacteria and food." Since tooth decay starts at an early age the devices have long been utilized as a type of preventative dentistry for children.
The first incarnation of the dental treatments launched in the mid 1950s and at that time it was called enamel bonding. As science evolved so did this type of dental treatment and by the late 1960s dental sealants we formally introduced and by the early 1970s the devices were acknowledged as being by the American Dental Association.
The practice of applying dental sealants got a major boost in the 1990s. At that time, the United States Public Health Service recommended that by the year 2000, 50 percent of children should have at least one sealant.
Presently the dental treatment is thought to be an essential way to help control the nation's tooth decay epidemic by the Pew Center on the States. The Pew Center is an independent think tank dedicated to analyzing issues that will impact the future of the country. The dental health of children is one such hot topic and the organization has taken to releasing report cards regarding how well each state handles the task and not having a state supported dental sealant program is considered to be a major negative on the organization's rating system.
Despite various agency encouraging the coating of baby teeth (specifically molars) in children, less than 40 percent of dentists follow the practice (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21881070). This move is in direct contradiction to the 2010 American Dental Association official recommendation of the practice.