Dental Sealants 101

Dental Sealants 101

Some tooth surfaces are simply too difficult to clean effectively, especially for young kids. Over time, plaque accumulates in these areas and cavities form. Dental sealants help prevent decay and tooth damage. The clear, protective layer fills in the deep pits and grooves in the back molars and premolars. Sealants keep plaque and debris out, for better oral health.

What are Dental Sealants?

A sealant is a thin coating applied to the chewing surface of a back tooth. The plastic seal keeps out the food, bacteria, and plaque that lead to decay.

Depending on the type of dental sealant it can be clear, white or slightly tinted. Typically, the protective barrier cannot be distinguished for the surrounding tooth surfaces.

When Should They Be Placed?

Sealants are placed on the permanent molars once they have erupted completely. Since cavities are common in kids, it is important to apply sealants as the permanent back teeth emerge. This will provide protection during the crucial years when teeth are most cavity-prone, between 6–14 years of age.

How are They Placed on My Child’s Teeth?

First, the treated tooth is cleaned thoroughly, rinsed and dried. An absorbent material, such as cotton, is placed near the tooth to assist in the drying process. An acid solution is applied to the tooth and rinsed away after several seconds.

This step helps the plastic sealant better bond to the enamel. Again, the tooth is rinsed and dried, and the sealant is painted onto the surface. Here, it is hardened quickly with a curing light.

How Long Do Dental Sealants Last?

A properly applied sealant can last up to a decade. Your child’s dentist will check the integrity of the seal at every routine exam. If the sealant appears worn or chipped, it will be removed and reapplied.

What’s the Difference Between a Dental Sealant and a Filling?

Dental sealants are a type of preventative dentistry used to help patients avoid decay and cavities. The clear plastic layer is placed on adult molars that are free of decay or disease. Fillings are used to restore teeth that have already been damaged by decay.