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J Am Dent Assoc. 2018 Sep;149(9):756-764.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.adaj.2018.05.001. Epub 2018 Jul 4.

Assessing the validity of existing dental sealant quality measures.



Although sealants are highly effective in preventing caries in children, placement rates continue to be low. The authors' goals were to implement and assess the performance of 2 existing sealant quality measures against a manual audit of charts at 4 dental institutions and to identify measurement gaps that may be filled by using data from electronic health records.


The authors evaluated the performance of 2 quality measures designed for claims-based data: the Dental Quality Alliance (DQA) sealant measure, which includes patients at risk of developing elevated caries, and the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) sealant measure (irrespective of caries risk). The authors adapted and validated these measures at 4 sites: 3 dental schools and 1 large dental accountable care organization.


The overall modified DQA and modified OHA measure scores in the 6- through 9-year-old age group were 37.0% and 31.6% and in the 10- through 14-year-old age group were 15.8% and 6.6%, respectively. Results from the manual review of charts showed that 67.6% of children who did not receive sealants did not have any teeth to seal because their molars had not yet erupted, had been extracted, had been sealed previously, or had existing caries or restorations.


Both the DQA and OHA measures, which rely mainly on Current Dental Terminology procedure codes, led to underestimation of the care delivered from a practice perspective. Future sealant quality measures should exclude patients whose teeth cannot be sealed.


This study's results support the suitability of using electronic health record data for assessing the quality of oral health care, particularly for measuring sealant placement in children.


Dental sealants; caries; caries risk assessment; oral health; quality of care


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