Dental Sealants

Dental sealants are protective coatings applied to teeth that are at risk of decay. Although tooth decay in children has decreased, preventable decay still occurs. Combined with drinking fluoridated tap water and using fluoridated toothpaste, sealants will virtually eliminate decay in the permanent teeth of many children. Sealants are safe and painless.

  • Sealants are thin (white or clear) plastic coatings that stick or bond to the surfaces of teeth.
  • They are used to cover the chewing surface of back teeth to help prevent tooth decay.
  • Sealants do not dissolve in saliva and are safe.
  • They were developed in the 1960s and have been widely used since this time.

Sealants block the physical effects of early tooth decay. Most decay starts in the narrow pits and grooves on the biting surfaces of teeth in the back of the mouth. These narrow pits and grooves are too small for the bristles of toothbrushes to get in to clean. Bacteria from plaque living in the grooves can make acid, which may cause tooth decay. Sealants painlessly fill and block up grooves that are too small for the toothbrush to clean.

How are sealants fitted?

Sealants:

  • Are applied by a dentist, dental therapist or oral health therapist
  • Fill and block up the small pits and grooves in the teeth to prevent decay
  • Harden to form a tough layer that prevents decay occurring.
  • Take a few minutes to apply to the teeth
  • Are painless
  • Do not require injections
  • Do not require drilling.
  • Can last from two to seven years, but may last up to 15 years
  • Your dentist, dental therapist or oral health therapist should check sealants regularly.

* Sealants are usually placed on permanent molars

The permanent molars found in the back of the mouth have the highest risk of tooth decay and benefit the most from the application of dental sealants. In most children, the first permanent molars appear about age six or seven years and the second molars about age 11 or 12 years.