Dental Sealants Prevent Cavities

Dental cavities are one of the most common chronic conditions among children and teens. Left untreated, cavities can cause pain and infection and problems in eating, speaking, and learning. A new CDC Vital Signs report reveals that, even though dental sealants are an extremely effective intervention for preventing most of the cavities children get in their permanent back teeth, the majority of children still don’t have them. Children from low-income families, who are at increased risk for cavities, are less likely than children from higher-income families to have dental sealants.

Additional findings of the report include

  • The disparity in sealant prevalence between low- and higher-income children decreased. The number of low-income children with sealants increased by about 70% in the last decade. This increase prevented almost 1 million cavities.
  • Providing dental sealants through school-based programs to the nearly 7 million low-income children who don’t have them could save up to $300 million in dental treatment costs.

State officials play an important role in increasing children’s access to school-based dental sealant programs (SPSP) in their states. Officials can

  • Target school-based sealant programs to the areas of greatest need in their state. They can track the number of schools and children participating in SBSPs.
  • Implement policies that deliver SBSPs in the most cost-effective manner.
  • Connect schools with health departments, Medicaid offices, community health centers, and dental professionals and organizations.

For more information about the benefits of dental sealants and the effectiveness of school-based sealant programs, visit CDC’s Oral Health and School-Based Dental Sealant Programs sites, as well as the Community Guide recommendationsExternal regarding how school-based sealant programs prevent cavities and save money.

several dentists working on two patients

A mobile dental sealant program in a school

A young boy in dental chair smiling up at his dentist

A dental sealant patient

Dental sealants can prevent cavities when applied to molar teeth.

Dental sealants can prevent cavities when applied to molar teeth.

Los selladores dentales previenen las caries

Los selladores dentales previenen las caries

3 illustrations of a molar with and without sealant

Three images of a molar: without sealant, sealant application, with final sealant

5 smiling children looking down at camera from above

Dental Sealants Prevent Cavities

Los selladores dentales previenen las caries

Los selladores dentales previenen las caries

3 smiling young girls

Dental Sealants Prevent Cavities

Los selladores dentales previenen las caries

Los selladores dentales previenen las caries

a group of smiling children

Dental Sealants Prevent Cavities

Los selladores dentales previenen las caries

Los selladores dentales previenen las caries

Los selladores dentales previenen las caries

Los selladores dentales previenen las caries

Infographic: Dental sealant use disparities are decreasing over time

Disparities between economic groups receiving sealants are decreasing over time.

Infographic: Disparities still exist between sealant use among low-income and higher-income children

Disparities still exist between sealant use among low-income and higher-income children

80% - Dental sealants prevent 80% of cavities in the back teeth, where 9 in 10 cavities occur.

80% - Dental sealants prevent 80% of cavities in the back teeth, where 9 in 10 cavities occur.

Los selladores dentales previenen el 80% de las caries en las muelas, en donde ocurren 9 de cada 10 caries.

Los selladores dentales previenen el 80% de las caries en las muelas, en donde ocurren 9 de cada 10 caries.

6 in 10 - About 60% of children ages 6-11 years don't get dental sealants

6 in 10 - About 60% of children ages 6-11 years don't get dental sealants

Cerca del 60% de los niños de 6-11 años no reciben selladores dentales.

Cerca del 60% de los niños de 6-11 años no reciben selladores dentales.

Children from low-income families are 20% less likely to get dental sealants than children from higher-income families

Children from low-income families are 20% less likely to get dental sealants than children from higher-income families

Los niños de familias de bajos ingresos tienen 20 % meno probabilidades de recibir selladores dentales que los de familias de ingresos más altos.

Los niños de familias de bajos ingresos tienen 20 % meno probabilidades de recibir selladores dentales que los de familias de ingresos más altos.

Contact Information

CDC Media Relations
(404) 639-3286
media@cdc.gov

Vital Signs Links

Factsheet:
English Cdc-pdf[2.41MB]
Spanish Cdc-pdf[1.99MB]

Spokespersons

“Programs that provide sealants to children at school are a win/win for everyone. When these programs target children from low-income families, they can be financially sustained by, and cost-saving, for state Medicaid programs. Also, because children will have healthier mouths, they won’t need as many fillings or be distracted by dental pain.”

Katherine Weno, DDS, JD – NCCDPHP Senior Advisor

“We have made great strides in reducing the disparity between low- and higher-income children when it comes to getting sealants. While our work is far from over, the number of children from low-income families with sealants increased by 70% up to 2014. This increase prevented almost 1 million cavities.”

Susan Griffin, PhD – CDC Division of Oral Health, Health Economist

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Page last reviewed: October 18, 2016