Dental Sealants Shield Kids from Tooth Decay

Decay in permanent teeth is falling among children, teens, and adults. Dental sealants — thin, plastic coatings that guard teeth from cavities — play a part in that decrease, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC found that 38 percent of children and teens ages 12 to 19 have dental sealants.

Why Use Sealants?

Good brushing and flossing helps remove food particles and plaque from the smooth surfaces of teeth. But your toothbrush bristles cannot reach all the way into the depressions and grooves (called pits and fissures) in some of your teeth to dislodge food and bacteria. These grooves are the number one spot for people to develop cavities. Sealants can protect these vulnerable areas, particularly on the chewing surfaces of your back teeth. Some people also have pits on other teeth where food or bacteria can collect, so those teeth are sometimes sealed as well.

Who Needs Them?

As soon as children’s permanent teeth come in, they should get sealants. Children’s first permanent molars usually come between ages 5 and 7, and their second permanent molars come in between ages 11 and 14.

Adults can also benefit from sealants. Ask your dentist if this could help you.

Getting teeth sealed is an easy and painless process:

  • The teeth to be sealed are cleaned.
  • The teeth are dried, and cotton is put around them to keep them dry.       
  • The chewing surfaces are roughened with a solution to help the sealant adhere to the tooth.
  • The teeth are rinsed and dried, and new cotton is placed around them.

Your dentist or dental hygienist will paint the sealant onto the tooth enamel, where it bonds directly to the tooth and hardens.

Getting sealants doesn’t always require a trip to the dentist. Sometimes they can be put on in clinics and even schools.


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“Surveillance for Dental Caries, Dental Sealants, Tooth Retention, Edentulism, and Enamel Fluorosis — United States, 1988–1994 and 1999–2002.” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. E.D. Beltran-Aguilar et al. August 26, 2005, vol. 54, no. 3, pp. 1–44, Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed 2013.
“A Reminder to Parents: Early Dental Visits Essential to Children’s Health.” American Dental Association, February 4, 2008. Accessed 2013.
“Tooth Eruption: The Permanent Teeth.” Journal of the American Dental Association. January 2006, vol. 137, p. 127. Accessed 2013.
“Seal Out Tooth Decay.” National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, August 2012. Accessed 2013.
“Gum Disease.” Mouth Healthy, American Dental Association. Accessed 2013.
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