- Dental sealants are thin coatings painted on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth (molars) that can prevent cavities for many years.
- Dental sealants prevent 80% of cavities over 2 years in the back teeth, where 9 in 10 cavities occur.1
- However, this effective intervention remains underused; less than half of children and adolescents have dental sealants.2
- 4 in 10 children (42%) aged 6 to 11 years have dental sealants on permanent teeth.2
- Among adolescents aged 12 to 19, 48% have dental sealants on permanent teeth.2
- From 1999–2004 to 2011–2016, sealant use increased by about 75% among children aged 6–11 years from low-income families, reaching 39% in 2011–2016, compared to 45% among higher-income children.2
- School-age children (ages 6–11) without sealants have almost 3 times as many cavities in the first molars as children who do have sealants.3, 4
- School sealant programs are an effective way to provide millions of children with sealants to prevent cavities.1
- Applying sealants in schools for about 7 million children from low-income families who don’t have them could save up to $300 million in dental treatment costs.4
- Adults aged 20 to 34 have more untreated cavities in their back teeth than any other age group. As a result, young adults may benefit from dental sealants.5
Featured Dental Sealants Infographics
- Community Preventive Services Task Force. Preventing Dental Caries: School-based Dental Sealant Delivery Programs. Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services, Community Preventive Services Task Force; 2016. https://www.thecommunityguide.org/sites/default/files/assets/Oral-Health-Caries-School-based-Sealants_0.pdf [PDF-579KB].
- 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
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vital signs: dental sealant use and untreated tooth decay among US school-aged children. MMWR. 2016;65(41):1141-1145.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dental Sealants Prevent Cavities—Vital Signs website. https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/pdf/2016-10-vitalsigns.pdf [PDF-2.36MB].
- Griffin SO, Wei L, Naavaal S, Fleming E. The contribution of different permanent tooth types to untreated caries: Implications for public health surveillance and prevention. J Am Dent Assoc. 2021;152(4):269–276. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.adaj.2021.01.003
Page last reviewed: March 29, 2021