The Scientific Evidence Shows that School-Based Sealant Programs Work

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.

CDC-Sponsored Expert Work Group Publishes Updated Recommendations for School-Based Sealant Programs

Preventing Dental Caries Through School-Based Sealant Programs: Updated Recommendations and Review of Evidence,”* Journal of the American Dental Association, November 2009, provides guidance to school-based sealant programs.

The recommendations were developed by a work group of experts in the fields of caries prevention and treatment, oral epidemiology, and evidence-based reviews. The work group also included representatives from professional dental organizations.

The expert work group examined new evidence on:

  • The effectiveness of sealants in preventing new decay and progression of early decay
  • Methods to assess decay
  • Sealant placement techniques
  • Scientific reviews of program practices

Based on this evidence, the following recommendations are provided for practitioners in school-based programs:

  • Seal pit-and-fissure tooth surfaces that are sound or have early decay, prioritizing first and second permanent molars.
  • Use visual assessment to differentiate surfaces with the earliest signs of tooth decay from more advanced lesions.
  • X-rays are not needed solely for sealant placement.
  • A toothbrush can be used to help clean the tooth surface before acid etching.
  • When resources allow, have an assistant help the dental professional place sealants.
  • Provide sealants to children even if follow-up examinations for every child cannot be guaranteed.

These recommendations are designed to guide practices of state and community public health programs for planning, implementing, and evaluating school-based sealant programs, as well as to complement the American Dental Association Council on Scientific Affairs’ evidence-based clinical recommendations for sealant use* (PDF–245K) published in 2008.

Above information was obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at: http://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/topics/dental_sealant_programs.htm).

Best Practice Approach Report

A new Best Practice Approach Report from ASTDD on improving children’s oral health through collaborative school health programs:  Best Practice Approach: Improving Children’s Oral Health Through Coordinated School Health Programs, March 2010.