(CBS NEWS) - Parents who wonder if dental sealants make a difference or not when it comes to protecting their kids from cavities will be glad to know they do reduce tooth damage, a new report shows. Federal health officials are encouraging more parents, health care providers, and schools to help make sure kids get them.

Sealants prevent 80 percent of cavities in school-age children, according to a new CDC Vital Signs Report. Dental sealants are protective coatings painted onto the teeth that help keep bacteria out of the nooks and crannies where tooth decay can occur.

The findings also show many children are missing out. About 60 percent of children ages 6 to 11 don’t get dental sealants, and kids who don’t have them get almost three times as many cavities.

In a press conference today, CDC officials said more health care providers, school administrators and parents need to be aware of the benefits of the procedure.

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