Cavities (tooth decay) are the most common chronic diseases of childhood in the United States.1 By age 8, over half of children (52%) have had a cavity in their primary (baby) teeth.2 Children from low-income families are twice as likely to have cavities as children from higher-income families.2
Poor oral health can have a detrimental effect on children’s quality of life, their performance at school, and their success later in life.3, 4 Cavities are preventable and ensuring that students have the preventive oral health services they need in school is important in helping them stay healthy and ready to learn. Dental sealants prevent cavities for many years. Children aged 6–11 without sealants have almost three times more first molar cavities than children without sealants.
School sealant programs are an effective way to reach millions of children in a school setting with dental sealants to prevent cavities. Increasing access to school sealant programs could reduce cavities, especially for children at higher risk for poor oral health. Compared with children from higher income families, children from low-income families are more likely to:
- Have untreated cavities.5
- Have few or no dental sealants.5
- Not have had yearly dental visits.6
School sealant programs have been shown to increase the number of children who receive sealants and are especially important for reaching children who are at greater risk for developing cavities and less likely to receive private dental care.
School sealant programs that offer oral health care to students should:
- Use evidence-based guidelines, recommendations, and studies for implementing programs.
- Voice support for policies that allow the use of dental personnel to operate at the top of their licensure when dentists are not required to be on site, as per state or local regulations.
- Develop referral networks with dental practitioners in the community.
- Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME). 2020. GBD Compare Data Visualization. Seattle, WA: IHME, University of Washington. http://vizhub.healthdata.org/gbd-compare.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Oral Health Surveillance Report: Trends in Dental Caries and Sealants, Tooth Retention, and Edentulism, United States, 1999–2004 to 2011–2016. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, US Dept of Health and Human Services; 2019. https://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/publications/OHSR-2019-index.html
- Dye BA, Xianfen L, Beltrán-Aguilar ED. Selected Oral Health Indicators in the United States 2005–2008. NCHS Data Brief, no. 96. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2012.
- Kwan SY, Petersen PE, Pine CM, Borutta A. 2005. Health-promoting schools: an opportunity for oral health promotion. Bulletin of the World Health Organization.83(9):677–
- Griffin SO, Wei L, Gooch B, Weno K, Espinoza L. Changes in dental sealant and untreated tooth decay prevalence and the estimated impact of increasing school-based sealant program coverage. MMWR. 2016;65:1141-1145.
- Griffin SO, Barker LK, Wei L, Chien-Hsun L, Albuquerque MS, Gooch BF. Use of dental care and effective preventive services in preventing tooth decay among US children and adolescents—Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, United States, 2003–2009 and National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, United States, 2005–2010. MMWR. 2014;63(2):55–61.