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Dental sealants

Dental sealants are a thin resin coating that dentists apply to the grooves of the permanent back teeth, the molars and premolars. Sealants are applied to help prevent cavities.

Why Sealants are Used

The grooves on the top of molars and premolars are deep and can be hard to clean with a toothbrush. Bacteria can build up in the grooves and cause cavities.

Dental sealants can help:

  • Keep food, acids, and plaque from sitting in the grooves of the molars and premolars
  • Prevent decay and cavities
  • Save time, money, and the discomfort of getting a cavity filled

Children are most at risk for cavities on molars. Sealants can help protect permanent molars. Permanent molars come in when children are about 6 years old and then again when they are 12 years old. Getting sealants soon after the molars have come in will help protect them from cavities.

Adults who do not have cavities or decay on their molars can also get sealants.

Sealants last about 5 to 10 years. Your dentist should check them at each visit in case a sealant needs to be replaced.

How Dental Sealants are Applied

Your dentist applies sealants on the molars in a few quick steps. There is no drilling or scraping of the molars. Your dentist will:

  • Clean the tops of the molars and premolars.
  • Put a conditioning acid gel on the top of the molar for a few seconds.
  • Rinse and dry the tooth surface.
  • Paint the sealant into the grooves of the tooth.
  • Shine a special light on the sealant to help it dry and harden. This takes about 10 to 30 seconds.

Cost and Insurance Coverage

Ask your dental office about the cost of dental sealants. The cost of dental sealants is usually priced per tooth.

  • Check with your insurance plan to see if the cost of sealants is covered. Many plans cover sealants.
  • Some plans have limits on coverage. For example, sealants may be covered only up to a certain age.

When to Call the Doctor

You should call the dentist if you:

  • Feel that your bite is not right
  • Lose your sealant
  • Notice any staining or discoloration around the sealant

Alternative Names

Pit and fissure sealants

References

American Dental Association website. Dental sealants. www.ada.org/en/member-center/oral-health-topics/dental-sealants. Updated October 19, 2016. Accessed November 20, 2018.

National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research website. Seal out tooth decay. www.nidcr.nih.gov/sites/default/files/2017-11/seal-out-tooth-decay-parents.pdf. Updated August 2017. Accessed November 20, 2018.

Sanders BJ. Pit-and-fissure sealants and preventive resin restorations. In: Dean JA, ed. McDonald and Avery's Dentistry for the Child and Adolescent. 10th ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2016:chap 10.

Review Date 10/14/2018

Updated by: Richard Port, DDS, MS, Diplomate: American Boards of Orthodontics and Pediatric Dentistry, Private Practice, Orthodontics, Vernon Hills and Gurnee, IL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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