The aim of this study was to test the hypothesis that the colour photograph method has a higher level of validity for assessing sealant retention than the visual clinical examination and replica methods. Sealed molars were assessed by two evaluators. The scores for the three methods were compared against consensus scores derived through assessing retention from scanning electron microscopy images (reference standard). The presence/absence (survival) of retained sealants on occlusal surfaces was determined according to the traditional and modified categorizations of retention. Sensitivity, specificity, and Youden-index scores were calculated. Sealant retention assessment scores for visual clinical examinations and for colour photographs were compared with those of the reference standard on 95 surfaces, and sealant retention assessment scores for replicas were compared with those of the reference standard on 33 surfaces. The highest mean Youden-index score for the presence/absence of sealant material was observed for the colour photograph method, followed by that for the replica method; the visual clinical examination method scored lowest. The mean Youden-index score for the survival of retained sealants was highest for the colour photograph method for both the traditional (0.882) and the modified (0.768) categories of sealant retention, whilst the visual clinical examination method had the lowest Youden-index score for these categories (0.745 and 0.063, respectively). The colour photograph method had a higher validity than the replica and the visual examination methods for assessing sealant retention.