Objective: This study compared time required and 12-month retention for two methods of sealant placement: traditional acid-etch technique and air-abrasion technique without acid etch. Methods: Sealants were placed on the permanent first molars of 84 children in grades 1–4 who were randomly assigned to treatment groups. All sealants were placed in a school setting by the same clinician. Chair time required for sealant placement was recorded, and retention rates were determined for each technique 12 months after placement. Results: Mean chair time for placement of sealants on four first molars using the air-abrasion technique was significantly less than for the acid-etch technique (7:36 minutes vs 10:56 minutes). Fifty-eight children were available at 12-month follow-up; an examiner not involved in sealant placement and masked as to the technique used determined retention. Rates of complete retention for occlusal surfaces were not significantly different for the two techniques, although the rate for acid etch was higher than that for air abrasion (95% vs 87%). The complete retention rates for the acid-etch technique were significantly higher than air abrasion for buccal and distolingual surfaces. These rates were 65 percent and 58 percent, respectively, for acid etch and 6 percent and 28 percent, respectively, for air abrasion. Conclusion: Although more research is needed to improve air-abrasion applications, it does not appear that air abrasion without acid etching offers a significant advantage over traditional sealant placement methods and, in fact, appears to be inferior to the acid-etch technique for use in public health settings.