OBJECTIVES: It is recommended that fissure sealants should be placed within four years after eruption. Due to considerable variations in the eruption times of molar teeth, this recommendation is of limited value from a public health perspective. This study, therefore, sought to provide empirical support for a public health fissure sealant placement timeframe protocol.
METHODS: The first and second molar eruption patterns of black South African children aged five to seven and 11 to 16 years were analysed in relation to caries experience using the 1999/2002 National Children’s Oral Health Survey.
RESULTS: By seven years of age, 90% of first molars had erupted with a caries experience of 3%. By 14 years of age the erupted first molars caries experience was 20%. The 13- and 14-year-olds presented with 86% and 98% erupted second molars with a caries experience of 11% and 20%, respectively.
CONCLUSIONS: The study findings suggest that during school-based fissure sealant programmes involving black South African children, first molars should be targeted at age seven (Grade 1), or as soon as possible thereafter. However, caries protection may still be achieved until thirteen years of age (Grade 7). Furthermore, second molars should be sealed between the age of 11 and 13 years (grades 5-7).