PIT AND FISSURE SEALANTS
One of the core functions of the Irish public dental service is to provide state-funded dental services to children and adolescents under the age of 16. The provision of fissure sealants by the public dental service has been strongly advocated in a number of reports.17-20 Fissure sealants have subsequently become the key caries-preventive strategy of the public dental service, and are an important element in services for children with special care needs. The strong focus placed on fissure sealants by the public dental service is reflected in the high prevalence of fissure sealants among 8-, 12- and 15-year-olds in the Republic of Ireland which is substantially higher than in the UK7 (47%, 70% and 69% compared to 13%, 25% and 30% in each age group respectively). However, in spite of the widespread use of fissure sealants by the public dental service, sealants may not be targeted effectively at those who need them most. A social gradient in the prevalence of sealants exists, with fewer children who are disadvantaged having at least one sealed tooth compared to children who are not disadvantaged. The prevalence of sealants is also lower among children attending special schools compared to their counterparts in mainstream schools.