Dental sealants are thin plastic coatings that are applied
to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth to prevent decay.
Most tooth decay in children and adolescents occurs on the
chewing surfaces of these back teeth, which are called molars.
This is because molars have irregular surfaces with pits and
grooves, which tend to trap food and bacteria debris. Sealants
flow into and coat these pits and grooves so that bacteria
cannot multiply and cause decay.
Sealants help maintain sound teeth. Decay destroys the structure
of the tooth. Each time a tooth Is filled or a
filling is replaces, additional tooth structure is lost. Amalgam
fillings last an average of six to eight years before they
need to be replaced. Appropriate use of sealants can save time,
money and the discomfort associated with restorative dental
Applying sealants is quite simple. First, the teeth are cleaned.
Then the teeth to be sealed are dabbed with a very mild acid
solution similar in strength to vinegar or lemon juice. This
roughens the tooth surface very slightly so that the sealant
will bond to it properly. After the tooth is prepared, the
sealant is painted onto the tooth. It flows into the pits
and grooves and hardens in about 60 seconds. After sealing,
cannot reach the pits and groove, and therefore cannot cause
decay. Applying sealants requires no drilling or removal
of the tooth surface. Tooth structure is left intact -
teeth are protected from decay-forming bacteria.
A sealant application can last for as long as five years and
often longer. Sealants should be checked regularly
and reapplied when they appear to have worn off. Because teeth
are most susceptible to decay when they are young, preventing
decay during the first 5 to 14 years after a tooth erupts is
For maximum benefit, sealants should be used as part of a
child's total preventive dental care. A dentist should examine
the child's teeth and gums regularly to check bite, tooth eruption,
and the condition of both hard and soft tissues. A complete
preventive dentistry program also includes: brushing and flossing,
use of fluorides, good nutrition and regular dental checkups.
The cost of sealing a tooth is consistently less than the cost
of having a tooth filled
NO! Fluorides such as those used in fluoridated water, fluoride
toothpaste, and fluoride mouth rinse help prevent decay on
the smooth surfaces of teeth. However, fluorides have less
effect on the rough, pitted chewing surfaces of the back teeth
where food particles and decay-producing bacteria are trapped.
Sealants, however, are only effective on the uneven chewing
YES! Thousands of children across the United States and in
other countries have had their teeth sealed in controlled clinical
studies. These studies have shown sealants to be effective,
easy to apply, inexpensive and non-toxic. That's why the American
Dental Association, the National Institute of Dental Research
and the American Public Health Association have recommended