This paper addresses a number of areas related to how effectively science and technology have met Healthy People 2010 goals for tooth decay prevention. In every area mentioned, it appears that science and technology are falling short of these goals. Earlier assessments identified water fluoridation as one of the greatest public health accomplishments of the last century. Yet, failure to complete needed clinical and translational research has shortchanged the caries prevention agenda that incomplete at a critical juncture.
Science has firmly established the transmissible nature of tooth decay. However, there is evidence that tooth decay in young children is increasing although progress has been made in other age groups. Studies of risk assessment have not been translated into improved practice. Antiseptics, chlorhexidine varnish, and PVP-iodine may have value, but definitive trials are needed. Fluorides remain the most effective agents, but are not widely disseminated to the most needy. Fluoride varnish provides a relatively effective topical preventive for very young children, yet definitive trials have not been conducted. Silver diammine fluoride also has potential but requires study in the US. Data support effectiveness and safety of xylitol, but adoption is not widespread. Dental sealants remain a mainstay of public policy, yet after decades of research, widespread use has not occurred.
We conclude that research has established the public health burden of tooth decay, but insufficient research addresses the problems identified in the Surgeon General's Report. Transfer of technology from studies to implementation is needed to prevent tooth decay among children. This should involve translational research and implementation of scientific and technological advances into practice.