Dental sealants are thin plastic coatings which are applied to the chewing surfaces of the molars (back teeth). Most tooth decay in children and teens occurs in these surfaces. Sealants cover the chewing surfaces to prevent decay. Dental Sealant Resources
Teeth Suitable for Sealants
Permanent molars are the most likely to benefit from sealant application. First molars usually come into the mouth when a child is about six years of age. Second molars appear at about age 12. It is best if the sealant is applied soon after the molars have erupted, before the teeth have a chance to decay. For that reason, children between the ages of 5 and 15 benefit most from sealants.
Applying sealants does not require drilling. It is an easy three-step process: A dentist or dental hygienist cleans the tooth with a special toothpaste. A special cleansing liquid, on a tiny piece of cotton, is rubbed gently on the tooth and is washed off. Finally, the sealant is painted on the tooth. It takes about a minute for the sealant to form a protective shield.
Benefits of Sealants
Sealants are slippery and make it harder for plaque that causes decay to stick in the pits and grooves of molars. Because sealants can prevent more than 80 percent of dental decay in children, they reduce the need for fillings and other more expensive treatment. Sealants are an economical preventive measure to keep teeth healthy for years.
Are Sealants Visible?
Upon close examination sealants can be seen. Sealants can be clear, white, or slightly tinted. Because they are used only on the back teeth, sealants cannot be seen when a child talks or smiles.
How Long Will Sealants Last?
One sealant application can last for as long as 5 to 10 years. Sealants should be checked regularly, and reapplied if they are no longer in place.
Will Sealants Replace Fluoride?
NO. Fluorides, such as those used in community water, and toothpaste also help to prevent decay. Fluoride works best on the smooth surfaces of teeth. The chewing surfaces on the back teeth, however, have tiny grooves where decay often begins. Sealants keep germs out of the grooves by covering them with a safe plastic coating. Sealants and fluorides work together to prevent tooth decay.
Are Sealants Safe and Effective?
Yes. Dental sealants have been used for more than 40 years. Clinical studies have shown sealants to be very effective in reducing tooth decay in children. Dental sealants are safe, effective and economical.
Sealing a Tooth Rather Than Waiting for Decay and Filling the Cavity
Sealants help maintain sound, intact teeth. Decay destroys the structure of the tooth. Each time a tooth is filled or a filling is replaced, additional tooth structure is lost. Fillings last an average of six to eight years before they need to be replaced. Appropriate use of sealants can save time, money, and the discomfort associated with dental treatment procedures.
- Dental Sealants Information for Parents (PDF) (Fact Sheet)
- School Based Dental Sealant Programs (PDF) (Fact Sheet)