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What are dental sealants?

Dental sealants are thin, plastic protective coatings that are bonded to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth. These are the molars and premolars. They help prevent tooth decay (cavities). Dental sealants work best on the back teeth. This is because the back teeth have more hard-to-reach pits and grooves where food bits and bacteria can get stuck.

How well do dental sealants work?

Sealants act as a physical barrier to food, plaque, and bacteria. In most cases, they provide a high level of protection to decay. The most important factor is how well the dental sealant sticks to the teeth. This action seals off the supply of nutrients to the bacteria that causes the cavity. The dental sealant becomes ineffective when all or part of the bond between the tooth and the sealant is broken.

Who should get dental sealants?

Sealants are best for children. This is because their newly erupted, permanent teeth are most at risk for cavities. According to the CDC, sealants should be used as part of a child's total preventive dental care. However, the CDC reports about half of children between the ages of 6 and 19 have dental sealants. A complete preventive dental program includes:

  • Sealants

  • Fluoride

  • Plaque removal

  • Good oral hygiene

  • Careful food choices

  • Regular dental care

Many young adults can also benefit from dental sealants. 

In addition, sealants help maintain the health of teeth. Each time a tooth is filled due to tooth decay, additional tooth structure is lost. Sealants often save time, money, reduce the discomfort associated with dental treatment procedures, and keep the tooth healthy.

What happens during the procedure?

The procedure starts with cleaning the surface of the tooth, rinsing the surface to remove all traces of the cleaning agent, and drying the tooth. An acidic solution or gel is put on the surface of the tooth, including the pits and grooves. This makes the surface of the tooth rough and provides more surface area for a good bond. After several seconds, the solution is thoroughly rinsed away with water and the site is dried. The liquid sealant is then applied and allowed to harden. Or hardened with a special blue light (curing light).

With correct oral hygiene, sealants may last several years before they need to be reapplied. During your following visits, the sealant will be checked and reapplied as needed.

Reviewed Date: 01-01-2023

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Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.