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Patient Education



What Is It?

A sealant is a clear or tinted plastic protective coating that is painted onto the chewing surfaces of the back teeth (molars and premolars), the area where most cavities form.


Molars and premolars have grooves and crevices (which dentists call pits and fissures). Food can get stuck in these crevices; some crevices are so deep that the bristles of a toothbrush can't reach into them. Pits and fissures provide the perfect environment for bacteria to grow and cause cavities to form. Sealants help to prevent this from happening. They cover the grooves and crevices so that food cannot get into them.


What It's Used For

Sealants most commonly are applied to children's teeth to help prevent cavities. Not only are sealants very effective, they cost a lot less than filling cavities.


Most dentists recommend that sealants be applied to each permanent molar as soon as possible. This can be when the tooth is only partially erupted. It depends on how accessible the tooth is and whether the dentist will be able to keep it dry during the application process.


If your child is at high risk for cavities, your dentist may decide to seal your child's premolars, or bicuspids, as well. The premolars are the teeth directly in front of the molars.


Dentists normally don't suggest sealants for primary (baby) teeth. However, they can be beneficial for children who have a lot of cavities, or are at high risk of cavities.


Sealants sometimes are used in adults who are at increased risk for developing cavities. You dentist can recommend whether this procedure is appropriate for you.




Applying sealants is a quick, painless procedure that can be done during a routine dental visit. No injections are needed. However, it is very important that the child sit still during the treatment so the tooth or teeth being worked on will stay dry. Keeping the tooth dry helps the sealants to adhere better.


How It's Done

The dentist cleans the area to remove any food or debris in and around the teeth, then makes sure the teeth are completely dry so that the sealant can stick. The sealant is applied in liquid form and flows over and into the pits and fissures. The sealant usually hardens (sets) within 20 to 60 seconds, or it is set with a special light.




Studies show that sealants can last a long time, sometimes as long as 15 years. But they are plastic and don't last forever.


Your child's dentist will check the sealants during your child's routine checkups. If necessary, the sealants can be replaced.


Remember, sealants work well, but they can't keep your child cavity-free without some help. Good oral care at home is still very important. It's also important for adults who have received sealants to continue to practice good oral hygiene by brushing twice a day, flossing at least once a day, and visiting a dentist regularly.


Help your child to:


  • Brush twice a day with a pea-size amount of fluoride toothpaste, and floss where teeth touch.

  • Get the right amount of fluoride, either by drinking fluoridated water or taking fluoride liquid or pills.

  • See a dentist regularly.




Although it is rare, sealants can cause problems in children who are allergic to plastics or components of plastics.


When To Call A Professional

Ask your dentist to talk with you about the benefits that sealants might have for your child. Although most pediatric dentists (dentist who specifically treat children) use sealants routinely, not all dentists do so. Therefore, your dentist may not think to talk to you about them.

Additional Information

American Academy Of General Dentistry

211 East Chicago - Suite 900

Chicago, IL 60610-1999

Toll-Free: (888) 243-3368

Fax: (312) 440-0559


American Dental Association

211 East Chicago Ave.

Chicago, IL 60611

Phone: (312) 440-2500

Fax: (312) 440-2800

American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD)

211 East Chicago Ave. - Suite 700

Chicago, IL 60611-2663

Phone: (312) 337-2169

Fax: (312) 337 6329







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