Department of Health and Human Services
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
What are dental sealants?
Dental sealants are thin plastic coatings that
are applied to the grooves on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth to
protect them from tooth decay. Most tooth decay in children and teens occurs
on these surfaces. Sealants protect the chewing surfaces from tooth decay by
keeping germs and food particles out of these grooves.
Which teeth are suitable for sealants?
Permanent molars are the most likely to
benefit from sealants. The first molars usually come into the mouth when a
child is about 6 years old. Second molars appear at about age 12. It is best
if the sealant is applied soon after the teeth have erupted, before they
have a chance to decay.
How are sealants applied?
Applying sealants does not require drilling or
removing tooth structure. The process is short and easy. After the tooth is
cleaned, a special gel is placed on the chewing surface for a few seconds.
The tooth is then washed off and dried. Then, the sealant is painted on the
tooth. The dentist or dental hygienist also may shine a light on the tooth
to help harden the sealant. It takes about a minute for the sealant to form
a protective shield.
Are sealants visible?
Sealants can only be seen up close. Sealants
can be clear, white, or slightly tinted, and usually are not seen when a
child talks or smiles.
Will sealants make teeth feel different?
As with anything new that is placed in the
mouth, a child may feel the sealant with the tongue. Sealants, however, are
very thin and only fill the pits and grooves of molar teeth.
How long will sealants last?
A sealant can last for as long as 5 to 10
years. Sealants should be checked at your regular dental appointment and
reapplied if they are no longer in place.
Will sealants replace fluoride for cavity
No. Fluorides, such as those used in
toothpaste, mouth rinse, and community water supplies also help to prevent
decay, but in a different way. Sealants keep germs and food particles out of
the grooves by covering them with a safe plastic coating. Sealants and
fluorides work together to prevent tooth decay.
How do sealants fit into a preventive
Sealants are one part of a child's total
preventive dental care. A complete preventive dental program also includes
fluoride, twice-daily brushing (see the
Brush Up on Healthy Teeth
tip sheet), wise food choices, and regular dental care.
Why is sealing a tooth better than waiting
for decay and filling the cavity?
Decay damages teeth permanently. Sealants
protect them. Sealants can save time, money, and the discomfort sometimes
associated with dental fillings. Fillings are not permanent. Each time a
tooth is filled, more drilling is done and the tooth becomes a little
Page last reviewed: September 10, 2008
Page last modified: September 10, 2008
Division of Oral Health,
National Center for Chronic
Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
Page Located on the
Web at http://www.cdc.gov/OralHealth/publications/factsheets/sealants_faq.htm