Cavities (tooth decay) are one of the most common chronic diseases of childhood in the United States. About 1 in 5 (20%) children aged 5–11 years have at least one untreated decayed tooth. The percentage of children and adolescents aged 5–19 years with untreated cavities is twice as high for children from low-income households (25%) compared with children from higher-income households (12%).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 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. These 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.
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]external iconand CDC Guidelines for Infection Control in Dental Healthcare Settings.
- Voice support 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.
- Best Practice Approach Report: School-Based Sealant Programsexternal icon
- Cavities and Dental Sealants Fast Facts
- CDC Dental Sealant FAQs
- Children’s Oral Health
- Considerations for School Sealant Programs During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic
- Dental Sealants Prevent Cavities
- Sealant Efficiency Assessment for Locals and States (SEALS)
- Seal America: The Prevention Inventionexternal icon
- 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.