Oral Health in Schools
Oral Health Facts
Tooth decay (cavities) is one of the most common chronic conditions of childhood in the United States. About 1 of 5 (20%) children aged 5–11 years have at least one untreated decayed tooth, and about 1 of 7 (13%) adolescents aged 12–19 years have at least one untreated decayed tooth.1 The percentage of children and adolescents aged 5–19 years with untreated tooth decay is twice as high for those from low-income families (25%) compared with children from higher-income households (11%).1
Poor oral health can have a detrimental effect on children’s quality of life, their performance at school, and their success later in life.2 Tooth decay is 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 tooth decay and also stop cavities from growing—they result in a large reduction in tooth decay among school-aged children 5–16 years of age.3
Addressing Oral Health in Schools
School-based sealant programs provide sealants to children in a school setting, and school-linked programs screen the children in school and refer them to private dental practices or public dental clinics that place the sealants. These programs have been shown to increase the number of children who receive sealants at school, and are especially important for reaching children from low-income families who are less likely to receive private dental care. Programs that offer oral health care to students should:
- Use evidence-based practices in Preventing dental caries through school-based sealant programs: Updated recommendations and reviews of evidence [PDF 115.6KB] and CDC Guidelines for Infection Control in Dental Healthcare Settings.
- Advocate for policies that allow the use of dental personnel to 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.
- Dental Sealants Prevent Cavities
- Oral Health and Learning: When Children’s Oral Health Suffers, So Does Their Learning [PDF-264KB]
- Preventing Dental Caries Through School-Based Sealant Programs
- CDC Dental Sealants Fact Sheet
- Sealant Efficiency Assessment for Locals and States (SEALS)
- Seal America: The Prevention Invention
- Best Practice Approach Report: School-Based Sealant Programs
- 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): 677-685.
- Griffin SO, Wei L, Gooch BF, Weno K, Espinoza L. Vital Signs: Dental Sealant Use and Untreated Tooth Decay Among U.S. School-Aged Children. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2016;65:1141-1145. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6541e1
- Page last reviewed: May 9, 2017
- Page last updated: May 9, 2017
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