What is a dental sealant?

A dental sealant is a thin, plastic coating painted on the chewing surfaces of teeth, usually the back teeth (the premolars and molars) to prevent tooth decay. The sealant quickly bonds into the depressions and grooves of the teeth, forming a protective shield over the enamel of each tooth.

Children are much more susceptible to tooth decay than adults. When possible, sealants should be applied to children’s teeth before decay has a chance to begin.

When a tooth is developing, deep grooves form in the biting surface of the back teeth. These grooves are called "fissures." When two or more fissures connect in the biting surface they form a "pit." These areas are very small and hard to reach with the bristles of the toothbrush. Food and bacteria stay on the biting surfaces for longer periods of time, making the tooth more susceptible to decay. Sealants protect these vulnerable areas by forming a barrier and sealing out plaque and food.

Sealants are easy and painless for your dentist or hygienist to apply and it only takes a few minutes to seal each tooth. As long as the sealant remains intact, the sealed tooth surface will be protected from decay. Sealants hold up well under the force of normal chewing and usually last several years. During your child’s regular dental visits, your dentist will check the condition of the sealants and reapply if necessary.

Common Questions

What are dental sealants?

Dental sealants protect the grooved and pitted surfaces of the teeth, especially the chewing surfaces of back teeth where most cavities in children are found. Made of clear or shaded plastic, sealants are applied to the teeth to help keep them cavity-free.

How do dental sealants work?

Even if your child brushes and flosses carefully, it is difficult – sometimes impossible -to clean the tiny grooves and pits on certain teeth. Food and bacteria build up in these crevices, placing your child in danger of tooth decay. Dental sealants seal out food and plaque, thus reducing the risk of decay.

How long do they last?

Research shows that dental sealants can last for many years if properly cared for. So, your child will be protected throughout the most cavity-prone years. If your child has good oral hygiene and avoids biting hard objects, sealants will last longer. Our dental team will check the sealants during routine dental visits and can recommend reapplication or repair when necessary.

What is the treatment like?

The application of a sealant is quick and comfortable. It takes only one visit. The tooth is first cleaned. It is then conditioned and dried. The sealant is then flowed onto the grooves of the tooth and allowed to harden or hardened with a special light. Your child will be able to eat right after the appointment.

How much does it cost?

The treatment is very affordable, especially in view of the valuable decay protection it offers your child. Most dental insurance companies cover sealants. Some companies, however, have age and specific tooth limitations. Check with your benefits provider about your child’s coverage and/or talk to our office about the exact cost of dental sealants for your child.

Which teeth should be sealed?

The natural flow of saliva usually keeps the smooth surfaces of teeth clean but does not wash out the grooves and fissures. So, the teeth most at risk of decay, and, therefore, most in need of sealants – are the six-year and twelve-year molars. Many times the permanent premolars and primary molars will also benefit from sealant coverage. Any tooth, however, with grooves or pits may benefit from the protection of dental sealants.

If my child has dental sealant treatment, are brushing and flossing still important?

Absolutely! Dental sealants are only one step in the plan to keep your child cavity-free for a lifetime. Brushing, flossing, balanced nutrition, limited snacking, and regular dental visits are still essential to a bright, healthy smile.