Dental Sealants – Protecting the Teeth

In the 1970s, dentistry was essentially a practice of “drill, fill and bill” because of cavities. The increased use of fluorides, however, led to a decline in the amount of tooth decay people developed.

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Brushing your teeth every day is great, but even the best oral hygiene habits can produce wear on the teeth and produce cavities.


Dental sealants act as a barrier, protecting the teeth against decay-causing bacteria. The dental sealants are usually applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth (premolars and molars) where tooth decay occurs most often.

Dental sealants are a made of plastic materials that are applied to the back teeth in order to prevent teeth cavities and nooks or crannies forming. This strong material is used to resist bacteria and acids, as well as provide a barrier to destructive food particles. Food and plaque are essentially ‘sealed out’ of the areas of your back teeth. When the sealants are applied correctly they are nearly 100% effective in preventing dental caries.

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Permanent molars are the most likely to benefit from dental sealant application. First molars usually come into the mouth when a child is about 6 years of age. Second molars appear at about age 12. It is best if the dental sealant is applied soon after the molars have erupted, before the teeth have a chance to decay. For that reason, children between the ages of 5 and 15 benefit most from dental sealants.

The potential to develop pit and fissure dental decay begins early in life, so children and teenagers are obvious candidates. But some adults at high risk of tooth decay can benefit from dental sealants as well. Your dentist can tell you if you would benefit from dental sealants.

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Dental sealants don’t replace fluoride. Fluorides, such as those used in community water, toothpaste, gels, varnish, and mouth rinse also help to prevent tooth decay. Fluoride works best on the smooth surfaces of teeth. The chewing surfaces on the back teeth, however, have tiny grooves where dental decay often begins. Dental sealants keep cavity-causing bacteria out of the grooves by covering them with a safe plastic coating. Dental sealants and fluorides work together to prevent tooth decay.

Dental sealants help maintain sound, intact teeth. Tooth decay destroys the structure of the tooth. Each time a tooth is filled or a filling is replaced, additional tooth structure is lost. Fillings last an average of 6 to 8 years before they need to be replaced. Appropriate use of dental sealants can save time, money, and the discomfort associated with dental treatment procedures.

An adult’s teeth can be sealed, although this procedure is typically utilized as a preventive measure for children so to help protect their teeth during those years when they are most likely to experience tooth decay. The need for dental sealants for either a child’s or an adult’s teeth should be considered on a case by case basis.



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