The cost and effectiveness of school-based preventive dental care

Am J Public Health. 1985 Apr;75(4):382-91. doi: 10.2105/ajph.75.4.382.


The National Preventive Dentistry Demonstration Program assessed the cost and effectiveness of various types and combinations of school-based preventive dental care procedures. The program involved 20,052 first, second, and fifth graders from five fluoridated and five nonfluoridated communities. These children were examined at baseline and assigned to one of six treatment regimens. Four years later, 9,566 members of this group were examined again. Analyses of their dental examination data showed that dental health lessons, brushing and flossing, fluoride tablets and mouthrinsing, and professionally applied topical fluorides were not effective in reducing a substantial amount of dental decay, even when all of these procedures were used together. Occlusal sealants prevented one to two carious surfaces in four years. Children who were especially susceptible to decay did not benefit appreciably more from any of the preventive measures than did children in general. Annual direct per capita costs were $23 for sealant or fluoride prophy/gel applications and $3.29 for fluoride mouthrinsing. Communal water fluoridation was reaffirmed as the most cost-effective means of reducing tooth decay in children.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Dental Health Surveys
  • Fluoridation
  • Fluorides, Topical
  • Health Education, Dental*
  • Humans
  • Oral Hygiene*
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care
  • Pit and Fissure Sealants
  • Preventive Dentistry / economics*
  • Schools
  • United States


  • Fluorides, Topical
  • Pit and Fissure Sealants