What are dental sealants?

Dental sealants are a protective plastic coating that are painted on the chewing surfaces of premolars and molars, which are located in the back of your mouth. The surfaces of these teeth have lots of grooves which make them susceptible to trapping plaque and bacteria. This trapped bacteria can cause cavities. Even with great brushing, it is very difficult to remove the plaque found deep in these grooves.  Therefore, sealants are used to prevent cavities from forming by "sealing" off these areas of the teeth.

Who should get sealants?

The best time to get sealants is as soon as the permanent (adult) molars and premolars begin to come in during childhood. Children between the ages of 6 and 14 are cavity prone, thus, preventing cavities from forming.  As soon as the teeth surface is the best time to apply sealants. The first set of permanent molars ("6 year molars") come in between the ages of 5 and 7. The second set of permanent molars ("12 year molars") come in between the ages of 11 and 14. Other teeth with deep pits and grooves may also benefit from sealants.

Adults without decay or fillings on their back teeth can also benefit from sealants.

Also, sometimes sealants are placed on baby teeth if the patient's teeth have deeper pits and grooves. Baby teeth hold the spacing for future adult teeth coming in so it's important that they remain healthy so they are not lost too early on during childhood.

The Procedure

Applying sealants is a quick and painless treatment. It begins with a thorough cleaning of the tooth surfaces. The area is then dried. An acidic solution is then placed on the chewing surfaces to roughen the chewing surface and help the sealants bind securely to the tooth. The teeth are rinsed and dried and then the sealant is painted onto the tooth surface and allowed to dry and harden. Sometimes a curing light is used to help the sealant harden.