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.
Why are they important?
Sealants can provide 100%
protection from dental decay or "cavities" on the chewing surface.
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
and air dried.
Second - The liquid sealant is painted into the grooves of
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
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
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
What else can parents do to prevent
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.
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.
How Are Sealants Applied? (Video)
Medical University of South Carolina
All rights reserved
Dental Public Health Class
Department of Craniofacial Biology
Department of Pediatric Dentistry
SC State Department of Education
MUSC Center for Academic and Research Computing