Sealants

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Overview

Dental sealants are thin plastic coatings that protect the chewing surfaces of children’s back teeth from cavities, or tooth decay. Because they have small pits and grooves, these surfaces are rough and uneven. Food and germs can get stuck in the pits and grooves and stay there for a long time because toothbrush bristles cannot brush them away. Sealants fill in the grooves and keep the food out.

Children should get sealants on their permanent molars (back teeth) as soon as they come in, before decay attacks the teeth. The first molars come into the mouth when children are about 6 years old, and the second molars appear when children are about 12 years old.

Sealants can be put on in a dental office, a community dental clinic, or in a school sealant program.

Applying sealants is simple and painless. They are painted on as a liquid and quickly harden to form a shield over the tooth.

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Helpful Tips

  • Ask a dentist or doctor where your child can get dental sealants. Sealants can be put on in a dentist’s office, a community health clinic, and sometimes at school.
  • Make sure your children also brush with a fluoride toothpaste twice a day and see a dentist for regular check-ups.
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Additional Resources

  • Seal Out Tooth Decay [PDF - 4 Pages]
    A photocopy-friendly version of NIDCR's Seal Out Tooth Decay publication.
  • Dental Sealants Frequently Asked Questions
    A fact sheet from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that explains what sealants are, how they are applied, how long they last, and the benefits of sealants.
  • MedlinePlus: Dental Sealants
    The NIH National Library of Medicine's collection of links to government, professional and non-profit/voluntary organizations with information on dental sealants.
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Last Reviewed on
February 2018