Department of Health and Human Services
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
dental caries (tooth decay) is largely preventable, it remains the most
common chronic disease of children aged 6 to 11 years (25%) and
adolescents aged 12 to 19 years (59%). Tooth decay is four times more
common than asthma among adolescents aged 14 to 17 years (59% compared
established, the disease requires treatment. A cavity only grows larger
and more expensive to repair the longer it remains untreated.
1 in 3 children enrolled in Medicaid received at least one preventive
dental service in the past year. Many states provide only emergency
dental services to Medicaid-eligible adults.
adults also have untreated tooth decay—28% of those aged 35 to 44 years
and 18% of those aged 65 years and older.
Strategies Prevent Tooth Decay
School-Based Sealant Programs
receiving dental sealants in school-based programs have 60% fewer new
decayed pit and fissure surfaces in back teeth for 2 to 5 years after a
single application. Among children, 90% of decay is in pits and
School-based sealant programs provide sealants to children from
low-income families who otherwise might not receive them. Children of
racial and ethnic minority groups have twice as much untreated decay in
their permanent teeth, but only receive about half as many dental
sealants as non-Hispanic white children.
states reported dental sealant programs serving 258,000 children. This
number, however, represents only about 8% of children from low-income
families who could receive sealants.
Community-Based Strategies to Prevent Tooth Decay Save Money
School-based dental sealant programs are cost saving when delivered to
populations at high risk for tooth decay, such as children in low-income
Community and school partnerships raise awareness about the value of school
sealant programs. Healthy Smiles for Wisconsin, a CDC-supported
statewide effort to improve the oral health of Wisconsin children through
school and community partnerships, began in October 2000. This program
helped to establish new community-based sealant programs, and in 2007–2008,
these programs provided sealants to 9,202 children in 19 counties.