Risk assessment criteria applied to a screening exam: Implications for improving the efficiency of a sealant program

Rachel L. Badovinac, Kelly E. Morgan, Joyce Lefevre, Sangeeta Wadhawan, Lorelei Mucci, Lynn Schoeff, Chester W. Douglass

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: The present study aimed to determine the ability of first-grade screening exam findings to predict carious lesions in permanent first molars by fourth grade. The ability to identify high-risk children would be useful in the rational allocation of limited public health resources, such as the application of sealants. Methods: Screening exams were performed on 204 children in 1st grade and 4th grade. Analyses were conducted at both the child- and molar- levels. Cross-tabulations were used to identify the threshold dmfs + DMFS in first grade that had the highest sensitivity and highest negative predictive value for discriminating between children with and without permanent caries (1) in the entire population and (2) in subpopulations defined by race/ethnicity, gender, and language spoken at home. This threshold then was entered into logistic regression models. Results: On the child and molar level, the study determined that dmfs + DMFS > 0 had the highest sensitivity (child: 69.4%, molar: 74.7%) and negative predictive value (child: 87.8%, molar: 94.4%). Using this test criterion, univariate logistic regression of the child-level data revealed an odds ratio of 2.72 (p=0.012) for presence of permanent tooth caries experience. Controlling for gender, grade, race/ethnicity, and language spoken at home, the odds ratio increased slightly to 2.76 (p=0.012). Conclusions: There is a relationship between carious lesion experience in 1st grade and carious lesion incidence in the first permanent molars by 4th grade. Using the dmfs + DMFS > O criterion may help public health providers determine which children should receive sealants when resources do not allow the delivery of sealants to all children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)203-208
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of public health dentistry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Sep 2005


  • Dental caries
  • Public health dentistry
  • Screening exam
  • Sensitivity and specificity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Dentistry
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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