Sealants Prevent Cavities in Kids

Cavities are almost entirely preventable, and a recent study shows that sealants — especially when combined with professional fluoride treatments — are among the best tools to help children fight tooth decay early in their lives. However, the study also cites sealants recently ranking ninth in children’s dental procedures, suggesting a lack of community awareness about sealant effectiveness.

The study, conducted by the Dental Data and Analysis Center, tracked dental benefits claims of nearly a half-million enrollees within the Delta Dental system. The claims covered children and adolescents, 6 to 15 years old, from 1998 to 2003.

According to the study, children with sealants were 78 percent less likely to need fillings than children without sealants. Of those with sealants, 93 percent were less likely to develop cavities when they combined sealants with more than five professional fluoride treatments during the five-year period. Professional treatments refer to a dentist applying temporary topical fluorides, such as gels or varnishes, usually as part of teeth cleaning.

Despite the demonstrated success of sealants in fighting cavities in children, in 2003, a separate claims review showed that some 2.2 million kids1 underwent dental procedures related to tooth decay, including fillings, extractions and crowns. That same year, sealants ranked only the ninth most common dental procedure among children, suggesting a lack of awareness among some parents and their children about the success of sealants in preventing tooth decay.

When applied to the chewing surfaces of molars, sealants act as a barrier between the tooth and harmful bacteria. They are most effective when applied to decay-susceptible surfaces as soon as the teeth come in. With sealants, there is no drilling and no discomfort. Either a dentist or a registered dental hygienist can apply sealants in less time than having a tooth filled.

Along with sealants, simple preventive care — brushing and flossing after every meal and regular dentist visits — ranks high for fighting cavities in children. From age 2, children should begin to brush their own teeth with a parent's help. Use a small, soft brush with a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. After age 8, children can brush and floss alone, with an occasional check by an adult.

  • 1For patients in the age range of 2 to 18 years

Community Contacts

Delta Dental Health, Education and Research Fund:

Tina Greenawalt

(717) 506-8355

Community Dental Programs:

See specific programs for contact information