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Preventing Dental Caries: School-Based Dental Sealant Delivery Programs

Task Force Finding

The Community Preventive Services Task Force recommends school-based sealant delivery programs based on strong evidence of effectiveness in preventing dental caries (tooth decay) among children. This recommendation is based on evidence that shows these programs increase the number of children who receive sealants at school, and that dental sealants result in a large reduction in tooth decay among school-aged children (5 to 16 years of age).

Read the full Task Force Finding and Rationale Statement for details including implementation issues, possible added benefits, potential harms, and evidence gaps.

Intervention Definition

Dental (pit and fissure) sealants are clear or opaque plastic resinous materials applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth to prevent dental caries (tooth decay). School-based dental sealant delivery programs provide dental sealants to students either onsite at schools (using portable dental equipment) or offsite in dental clinics. These programs often target schools in low socioeconomic status (SES) neighborhoods, often identified based on the percentage of children eligible for the federal free or reduced-price meal programs. Some programs may target individuals within a school, based on their risk for caries.

Application demands meticulous technique, and licensed dental health professionals should consult manufacturer's instructions for specific sealant products.

About the Systematic Review

The Task Force finding presented on this page was made in April 2013 and updates a previous finding from February 2000. It is based on four studies of sealant delivery programs in which sealants were applied within the school setting, and one high quality systematic review (Ahovuo-Saloranta et al. 2013, search period 1946-2012; 34 included studies) evaluating the efficacy of sealants in school-aged children. Based on this updated review, the Task Force finding of strong evidence of effectiveness for this intervention remains the same.

The review was conducted on behalf of the Task Force by a team of specialists in systematic review methods, and in research, practice and policy related to oral health. Subscribe External Web Site Icon to be notified as new materials on this topic become available.

Publication Status

Full peer-reviewed articles of this systematic review will be posted on the Community Guide website when published. Subscribe External Web Site Icon to be notified when we post these publications or other materials. See our library for previous Community Guide publications on this and other topics.


Ahovuo-Saloranta A, Forss H, Walsh T, Hiiri A, Nordblad A, Mäkelä M, Worthington HV. (2013) Sealants for preventing dental decay in the permanent teeth. 'Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2013', Issue 3. Art. No.: CD001830. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001830.pub4.


The findings and conclusions on this page are those of the Community Preventive Services Task Force and do not necessarily represent those of CDC. Task Force evidence-based recommendations are not mandates for compliance or spending. Instead, they provide information and options for decision makers and stakeholders to consider when determining which programs, services, and policies best meet the needs, preferences, available resources, and constraints of their constituents.

Sample Citation

The content of publications of the Guide to Community Preventive Services is in the public domain. Citation as to source, however, is appreciated. Sample citation: Guide to Community Preventive Services. Preventing dental caries: school-based dental sealant delivery programs (abbreviated). Last updated: MM/DD/YYYY.

Review completed: April 2013