American Dental Association

View all recommendations from this society

Released June 27, 2016

Avoid restorative treatment as a first line of treatment in incipient (non-cavitated) occlusal caries without first considering sealant use.

High quality evidence shows sealants are safe and effective in arresting caries progression in initial stage (incipient) non-cavitated, occlusal caries. Sealants offer a tooth-preserving treatment when compared to restorations, which may require removal of some healthy tooth structure, thereby weakening the tooth and increasing the risk that the tooth will eventually require more extensive treatment. Applying sealants as soon as initial stage caries is detected can improve outcomes by minimizing the later need for more extensive restorative care.

Support for the ADA’s development of Choosing Wisely recommendations was provided by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

These items are provided solely for informational purposes and are not intended as a substitute for consultation with a medical professional. Patients with any specific questions about the items on this list or their individual situation should consult their dentist.

How The List Was Created

The American Dental Association (ADA) is a professional organization that supports the practice of evidence-based dentistry and routinely develops clinical guidelines for various clinical topics, including the use of dental sealants to prevent tooth decay and fluoride toothpaste for young children.

To create this list, the ADA’s Council on Access, Prevention and Interprofessional Relations established a Steering Committee consisting of ADA members representing evidence based experts in general dentistry and various disciplines within dentistry, including research, cariology, oral surgery, periodontology, public health, geriatrics and pediatric dentistry. Steering Committee liaisons included representatives from the ADA Council on Dental Practice, Council on Dental Benefit Programs, Council on Communications and Council on Scientific Affairs and representatives from dental specialty organizations.

The Steering Committee reviewed critical issues in dentistry to identify potential recommendation topics and developed, through an evidence-based process, a list of recommendation statements with supporting scientific evidence. Via an intense consensus process, the Steering Committee prepared a list of recommendation statements which were sent to the Council on Access, Prevention and Interprofessional Relations for review. The Council voted to recommend the final five recommendation statements on this list to the ADA Board of Trustees for its approval. The five recommendation statements were approved for distribution by member vote by the ADA Board.

ADA’s disclosure and conflict of interest policy can be found at


Ahovuo-Saloranta A, Hiiri A, Nordblad A, Mäkelä M, Worthington H. Pit and fissure sealants for preventing dental decay in the permanent teeth of children and adolescents. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008 Oct 8;(4):CD001830.

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Hesse D, Bonifácio CC, Mendes FM, Braga MM, Imparato JC, Raggio DP. Sealing versus partial caries removal in primary molars: a randomized clinical trial. BMC Oral Health. 2014 May 28;14:58.

de Assunção IV, da Costa Gde F, Borges BC. Systematic review of noninvasive treatments to arrest dentin non-cavitated caries lesions. World J Clin Cases. 2014 May 16;2(5):137-41.

Oral Health Services Guideline Initiative. Pit and fissure sealants: evidence-based guidance on the use of sealants for the prevention and management of pit and fissure caries. Cork (IR): Cork Oral Health Services Research Centre; 2010. 49 p.