Although widely accepted as effective in preventing tooth decay by the dental profession and commercially available for over 25 years, sealants are still underutilized, according to a recently published article by Drs. Robert E. Primosch and Elizabeth S. Barr in The Journal of the American Dental Association on sealant utilization by pediatric dentists. Dentists can now receive continuing education credits for completion of a sealant course available online or via hard copy, through a new program created by Aetna and Columbia University.
Aetna, which has the nation's largest managed dental network managed by a single company, is sending the sealant continuing education course materials to each of the approximately 7,000 available general dentist practice locations participating in the Aetna DMO(R) network. To receive credit, dentists must complete the course by mid-July of this year.
Sealants, if correctly applied, will provide protection against decay and will remain functional for many years. A major national survey found fewer than one in five children and adolescents ages 5 to 17 receive sealants for their teeth.
Children and adolescents who are at moderate or high risk for dental cavities should have sealants placed on their teeth because of the level of protection the sealant offers against future problems. Additionally, the application process is simple -- applied sealant material on teeth will usually set within 10-20 seconds.
"Dental sealants in combination with fluorides are the cornerstone of preventive dentistry," said David A. Albert, DDS, MPH, Columbia University professor and principal investigator on this project. "Increasing appropriate application of dental sealants can decrease patients' exposure to the cavities process and the cycle of restoration and re-restoration."
"Aetna continues to seek ways to provide information and support that can help improve the dental services provided to our members by participating dentists," said Tom Gotowka, DDS, MS, MPA, Aetna's chief dental officer. "Aetna hopes this course will create an increased awareness on the importance of sealants in protecting children's teeth."
Aetna and Columbia University have recently collaborated to study dentists' efforts to educate their patients about tobacco cessation. The two organizations are currently developing a tobacco cessation education and intervention program for dentists on CD-ROM.
The School of Dental and Oral Surgery (SDOS) at Columbia University, founded in 1917, is located at the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center campus in northern Manhattan. In addition to providing education programs for pre- and post-doctoral candidates, SDOS conducts research in state-of-the-art facilities and oversees an extensive community-based service program for residents in the surrounding community -- a federally designated medical and dental manpower shortage area. Outreach into the community includes dental programs in seven area public schools, a dental van, and three off-site community-based dental clinics, providing a rich learning environment for students at SDOS.
Aetna is one of the nation's leading providers of health care and related group benefits, serving 15.6 million health care members, 12.4 million dental members and 11.5 million group insurance customers, as of January 1, 2002. Information about Aetna is available at www.aetna.com.