Protecting Children's Teeth


Online Resources

Parents, as your child's permanent teeth come in, talk to your dentist about having dental sealants applied to protect teeth from tooth decay.

molars What is a dental sealant? A dental sealant is a plastic coating applied to the chewing surfaces of back teeth. Grooves in these teeth are so narrow that a toothbrush cannot fit into the spaces to remove plaque (what is plaque?). Dental sealants prevent dental decay in the grooves.

Clinical BuildingWhy are they important? Sealants can provide 100% protection from dental decay or "cavities" on the chewing surface. Research has shown that when placed over very minimal dental decay, the decay will no longer progress.

Who should get sealants? Children should receive sealants on permanent molars as soon as they erupt (about ages 6 and 12 years).

If a tooth already has a filling, then it does not get a dental sealant.

How are sealants applied?
First - The tooth is etched with a mild acid to create retention for the sealant, then rinsed and air dried.
Second - The liquid sealant is painted into the grooves of the teeth.
Third - A high intensity light is used to activate the liquid plastic to harden.

Are they safe?
Sealants are simple, painless, and require no drilling.

How long do they last?
While they may last up to 10 years, 2 to 4 years is a more reasonable estimate. Sealants can be highly effective in protection against cavities provided the sealant is continuously monitored by a dentist. Sealants should be checked by a dentist during regular check ups and if needed they can be re-applied.

Why aren't sealants used on all teeth?
The liquid plastic is designed to flow into and fill the pits and grooves of the teeth. The plastic does not work on the smooth surfaces of the teeth, like the fronts and backs and sides of the teeth.

How much do they cost?
Treatment is cost effective because sealing a tooth costs less than filling one. As a parent, check with your dentist about specific costs.

What else can parents do to prevent cavities?
Encourage your child to brush and floss every day. Use fluoride toothpaste. Ask your dentist about fluoridated water and fluoride mouth rinses. Take your child to the dentist for regular check-ups. Give your child healthy foods and avoid candy and foods with lots of sugar.

Link to a list of  web sites

Lesson Plans: Teach students about sealants and the importance of them. Lots of hands-on activities, all linked to the SC Health Education Standards developed by the State Department of Education.

Second Grade
Seventh Grade

Fun Sites:
Colgate Kids World

How Are Sealants Applied? (Video)

Online Resources

Copyright 2004
Medical University of South Carolina
All rights reserved

Thanks to:

Kate Lyttle
Update 2009

MUSC Dental Public Health Class
Spring 2002

Department of Craniofacial Biology

Department of Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics


SC State Department of Education

MUSC Center for Academic and Research Computing

MUSC College of Dental Medicine Viewpoint (Video)

Current Practices
Review of the literature related to dental sealants

Sample Insurance Form

Online Resources

Principal Investigator:
John J. Sanders, DDS

Project Director:
Raymond F. Lala, DDS, MPH

Project Facilitator:
Susan G. Reed, DDS, DrPH

Funded by:
HRSA Grant