What Is It?
A sealant is a clear or tinted plastic
protective coating that is painted onto the
chewing surfaces of the back teeth (molars
and premolars), the area where most cavities
Molars and premolars have grooves and
crevices (which dentists call pits and
fissures). Food can get stuck in these
crevices; some crevices are so deep that the
bristles of a toothbrush can't reach into
them. Pits and fissures provide the perfect
environment for bacteria to grow and cause
cavities to form. Sealants help to prevent
this from happening. They cover the grooves
and crevices so that food cannot get into
Sealants most commonly are applied to
children's teeth to help prevent cavities.
Not only are sealants very effective, they
cost a lot less than filling cavities.
Most dentists recommend that sealants be
applied to each permanent molar as soon as
possible. This can be when the tooth is only
partially erupted. It depends on how
accessible the tooth is and whether the
dentist will be able to keep it dry during
the application process.
If your child is at high risk for cavities,
your dentist may decide to seal your child's
premolars, or bicuspids, as well. The
premolars are the teeth directly in front of
Dentists normally don't suggest sealants for
primary (baby) teeth. However, they can be
beneficial for children who have a lot of
cavities, or are at high risk of cavities.
Sealants sometimes are used in adults who
are at increased risk for developing
cavities. You dentist can recommend whether
this procedure is appropriate for you.
Applying sealants is a quick, painless
procedure that can be done during a routine
dental visit. No injections are needed.
However, it is very important that the child
sit still during the treatment so the tooth
or teeth being worked on will stay dry.
Keeping the tooth dry helps the sealants to
How It's Done
The dentist cleans the area to remove
any food or debris in and around the teeth,
then makes sure the teeth are completely dry
so that the sealant can stick. The sealant
is applied in liquid form and flows over and
into the pits and fissures. The sealant
usually hardens (sets) within 20 to 60
seconds, or it is set with a special light.
Studies show that sealants can
last a long time, sometimes as long as 15
years. But they are plastic and don't last
Your child's dentist will check the sealants
during your child's routine checkups. If
necessary, the sealants can be replaced.
Remember, sealants work well, but they can't
keep your child cavity-free without some
help. Good oral care at home is still very
important. It's also important for adults
who have received sealants to continue to
practice good oral hygiene by brushing twice
a day, flossing at least once a day, and
visiting a dentist regularly.
Help your child to:
▪ Brush twice a day with a pea-size amount
of fluoride toothpaste, and floss
where teeth touch.
▪ Get the right amount of fluoride, either
by drinking fluoridated water or taking
fluoride liquid or pills.
▪ See a dentist regularly.
Although it is rare, sealants can cause
problems in children who are allergic to
plastics or components of plastics.
When To Call A Professional
Ask your dentist to talk with you about
the benefits that sealants might have for
your child. Although most pediatric dentists
(dentist who specifically treat children)
use sealants routinely, not all dentists do
so. Therefore, your dentist may not think to
talk to you about them.
American Academy Of General Dentistry
211 East Chicago - Suite 900
Chicago, IL 60610-1999
Toll-Free: (888) 243-3368
Fax: (312) 440-0559
American Dental Association
211 East Chicago Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611
Phone: (312) 440-2500
Fax: (312) 440-2800
American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD)
211 East Chicago Ave. - Suite 700
Chicago, IL 60611-2663
Phone: (312) 337-2169
Fax: (312) 337 6329
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