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Dentistry for Children - Dental SealantsDental Sealants – What are dental sealants and why does my child need them?

Dental sealants are thin plastic coatings that 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.

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Which teeth are suitable for sealants?
Permanent molars are the most likely to benefit from sealant applications.

First molars usually come into the mouth when a child is about age 6. 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.

However, we encourage sealant application on people of all ages for prevention.

How are sealants applied?
It is an easy three-step process:

  1. A dentist or dental hygienist cleans the tooth with special toothpaste.
  2. A cleansing liquid is rubbed gently on the tooth and washed off.
  3. The sealant is painted on the tooth. It takes about a minute for the sealant to form a protective shield.

Are sealants visible?
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. Only upon close examination of the back teeth can sealants be seen.
Will sealants make teeth feel different?
Like anything new that is placed in the mouth, a child may initially feel the sealant with the tongue. Sealants, however, are very thin and only fill the pits and grooves on molar teeth. Thus, after initial application, they should not be noticeable.
How long will sealants last?
One sealant application can last for as long as 5 to 10 years. Sealants should be checked regularly, and periodically reapplied.
Will sealants replace fluoride?
No. Fluorides, such as those used in community water, toothpaste, and mouth rinse 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.

How do sealants fit into a preventative dentistry program?
Sealants should be used as part of a child’s total preventive dental care.

A complete preventive dental program includes use of sealants, fluoride, plaque removal, careful food choices, and regular dental care.

Why is sealing a tooth better than waiting for decay and filling the cavity?
Decay destroys the structure of the tooth. Sealants help maintain sound, intact teeth.

Each time a tooth is filled or a filling is replaced, additional tooth structure is lost.

Fillings last an average of 6 to 8 years before they need to be replaced.

Appropriate use of sealants can save time, money, and the discomfort associated with dental treatment procedures.