Sealants prevent tooth decay and also stop cavities from growing. The Surgeon General’s report on oral health indicates that sealants can reduce decay in school children by more than 70 percent.
On this page:
- What Are Dental Sealants?
- What Are School-Based Sealant Programs?
- The Scientific Evidence Shows that School-Based Sealant Programs Work
- CDC-Sponsored Expert Work Group Publishes Updated Recommendations for School-Based Sealant Programs
Sealants are thin plastic coatings applied to the tiny grooves on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth. This is where most tooth decay in children and teens occurs. Sealants protect the chewing surfaces from decay by keeping germs and pieces of food out.
Learn more about sealants, including how they help prevent tooth decay and how they are applied, from this Dental Sealants Fact Sheet.
School-based dental sealant delivery programs provide sealants to children unlikely to receive them otherwise. Such programs—
- Define a target population within a school district
- Verify unmet need for sealants
- Get financial, material, and policy support
- Apply rules for selecting schools and students
- Apply sealants at school or offsite in clinics
School-based sealant programs are especially important for reaching children from low-income families who are less likely to receive private dental care. Programs generally target schools by using the percentage of children eligible for federal free or reduced-cost lunch programs Tooth decay may result in pain and other problems that affect learning in school-age children. Learn more by reading Oral Health and Learning* (PDF–81K). This report addresses the following:
- Lost school time
- Oral health and learning
- Nutrition and learning
- Programs for improving oral health
Findings from scientific studies clearly show that school dental sealant programs work to stop tooth decay.
The Task Force on Community Preventive Services recommends school sealant programs and issued a strong endorsement* in 2001. In 2003, the Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors published a Best Practice Approach Report.* This report reviews the scientific evidence that school sealant programs work and presents specific examples of practices in state programs.