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Dental Sealants Prevent Cavities

Preventing cavities can mean less pain and less money spent in the long run

What if You Could Prevent Cavities From Forming on Your Child's Teeth?

Proper brushing and flossing are essential to removing plaque on the smooth surfaces of teeth to help keep your mouth clean and cavity free. But did you know that the indentations on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth, called pits and fissures, are one of the most common places where tooth decay occurs? These pits and fissures are some of the most difficult areas to clean properly.

Toothbrush bristles typically cannot reach the tiny pits and grooves in these teeth to remove plaque effectively. Dental sealants can help prevent decay from occurring in the pits and fissures that the toothbrush cannot reach.

What Are Dental Sealants?

A sealant is a plastic film-like material that is applied to the chewing surfaces of unrestored permanent molars. The plastic material bonds to the pits and fissures of the chewing surfaces and acts as a barrier to protect the teeth from decay-causing bacteria.

Who Can Benefit From Sealants?

Sealants are most often recommended for newly erupted permanent molars. First and second permanent molars erupt into the mouth at about the age of 6 and 12, respectively. Having sealants applied to these teeth shortly after they erupt protects them at an early age from developing cavities.

How Are Sealants Applied to Teeth?

  • A dentist or hygienist applies sealants. The procedure is simple and fast with very little, if any, discomfort.
  • First, the teeth receiving sealants are thoroughly cleaned and rinsed.
  • A gel is then applied to the teeth to help the sealant bond to them. The teeth are then rinsed and dried.
  • The sealant material is then painted onto the teeth, much like nail polish on a fingernail, and allowed to dry and form a bond on the chewing surface.
  • Your dentist may use a special light to help the sealant material harden.
  • It usually takes a dental professional only a few minutes to seal each tooth, but once applied, sealants can last from five to ten years.

How Effective Are Sealants?

Because sealants act as a physical barrier to decay-causing bacteria, they are nearly 100% effective in protecting teeth from cavities within pits and fissures when applied properly. Studies have shown that children whose permanent molars have not been sealed are 22 times more likely to develop cavities than those with sealants. Dental sealants are also very cost effective. Having them applied is less than the cost of having a cavity filled.

Prevention is the key to keeping your mouth and teeth healthy. Be sure to brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, clean between your teeth daily with floss, eat healthy foods and visit your dentist regularly. Ask your dentist if your children would benefit from the added protection of dental sealants.

Note: The information in this document is not meant to replace the advice of your dentist or another licensed healthcare professional. Talk to your dentist for any specific dental advice.

Sources: American Dental Association:; Academy of General Dentistry:; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: