How Do Dental Sealants Protect Children’s Teeth?

If you’ve ever wondered how dental sealants work to protect children’s teeth, we’ve got the answers for you. Dental sealants are a thin, protective coating that is applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth, primarily the molars. We all know that kids can be prone to cavities, especially in these hard-to-reach areas. That’s where dental sealants step in, providing an extra layer of defense against tooth decay. By creating a barrier between the teeth and the bacteria in the mouth, sealants help to prevent food particles and plaque from accumulating in the grooves and pits of the teeth, ultimately reducing the risk of cavities. So, let’s dive into the fascinating world of dental sealants and how they play a vital role in protecting your child’s precious smile.

What are dental sealants?

Dental sealants are a preventive dental treatment that help protect the teeth from tooth decay and cavities. They are a thin, plastic coating that is applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth, mainly the premolars and molars. These teeth have deep grooves and pits that are difficult to clean properly, making them more susceptible to decay. By sealing these vulnerable areas, dental sealants act as a barrier, preventing bacteria and food particles from getting trapped and causing decay.

How are dental sealants applied?

The process of applying dental sealants is quick and painless. First, the teeth are thoroughly cleaned and dried. Then, an acidic gel is applied to the tooth surface to create a rough texture, helping the sealant bond to the tooth. After rinsing and drying the tooth again, the sealant material is carefully brushed onto the tooth, filling in the grooves and pits. A special light may be used to harden the sealant, ensuring it adheres to the tooth surface. Once the sealant is set, it forms a protective shield over the tooth, keeping bacteria and food particles out.

What do dental sealants do?

Dental sealants primarily serve two main purposes. Firstly, they act as a physical barrier, sealing off the vulnerable areas of the teeth and creating a smooth surface that is easier to clean. This prevents food particles and bacteria from getting stuck in the deep grooves and pits, reducing the risk of tooth decay. Secondly, dental sealants release small amounts of fluoride over time, which further strengthens and protects the teeth against decay.

Why are dental sealants important for children?

Preventing tooth decay

Tooth decay is a common problem that affects children of all ages. By getting dental sealants, children can significantly reduce their risk of developing cavities. The chewing surfaces of the back teeth are particularly prone to decay as they are harder to clean effectively. Dental sealants provide an additional layer of protection, helping to keep decay-causing bacteria at bay.

Protecting against cavities

Cavities can be painful and require invasive treatments such as fillings. Dental sealants act as a preventive measure, helping to protect the teeth against cavities by creating a smooth surface that is easier to clean and less likely to harbor plaque and bacteria.

Long-lasting protection

Dental sealants are durable and can last for many years with proper care. By providing long-lasting protection against decay, they help children maintain good oral health throughout their childhood and into their teenage years.

Cost-effective solution

Dental sealants are a cost-effective solution for preventing tooth decay. Compared to the cost of treating cavities or other dental problems, the upfront investment in sealants can save families money in the long run. They help avoid the need for more extensive and expensive dental procedures, making them a wise investment in a child’s oral health.

How do dental sealants work?

Sealing the vulnerable areas

The deep grooves and pits on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth are prime spots for bacteria and food particles to hide, making them more susceptible to decay. Dental sealants provide a protective barrier by sealing off these vulnerable areas. This prevents decay-causing bacteria from settling in and significantly reduces the risk of tooth decay.

Blocking out bacteria and food particles

Dental sealants create a smooth and even surface on the tooth, making it more difficult for bacteria and food particles to adhere to it. When the sealants are properly applied, the chances of plaque buildup are greatly reduced. This helps maintain good oral hygiene and prevents tooth decay from developing.

The process of getting dental sealants

Evaluation and consultation

Before getting dental sealants, a visit to the dentist is necessary. The dentist will evaluate the child’s teeth and determine if sealants are a suitable treatment option. They will also provide information about the benefits, risks, and proper care of sealants. This consultation allows for an informed decision about whether or not to proceed with the treatment.

Tooth preparation

Once the decision to proceed with dental sealants is made, the teeth that will be sealed are thoroughly cleaned and dried. This ensures that the sealants adhere properly to the tooth surface. The dentist may use dental tools to clean out any debris or plaque from the deep grooves and pits, preparing the tooth for the sealant application.

Sealant application

After the tooth has been prepared, an acidic gel is applied to the tooth surface. This gel creates a rough texture that helps the sealant bond to the tooth. After rinsing and drying the tooth, the sealant material is then brushed onto the tooth, focusing on the deep grooves and pits. The dentist ensures that the sealant completely covers the vulnerable areas, forming a protective layer.

Curing and checking the sealants

Once the sealant has been applied, a special light may be used to cure or harden the sealant. This ensures that it adheres securely to the tooth surface. The dentist will also check the sealants to make sure they are properly placed and that there are no areas that need additional sealing. A final check of the occlusion or bite is also done to ensure proper fitting and alignment.

Are dental sealants safe?

BPA concerns

Dental sealants are made of a plastic material that may contain bisphenol A (BPA). BPA is a chemical that has raised some concerns about its potential health effects. However, the American Dental Association (ADA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have stated that the levels of BPA exposure from dental sealants are extremely low and not a cause for concern. The benefits of dental sealants in preventing tooth decay outweigh any potential risks associated with BPA exposure.

Proper application and maintenance

To ensure the safety of dental sealants, it is crucial to have them applied by a trained dental professional. Dentists are well-versed in the proper application techniques and follow strict hygiene protocols. Additionally, regular dental check-ups are essential to monitor the condition of the sealants and ensure they are intact and functioning as intended. Proper oral hygiene practices, such as brushing and flossing regularly, are also crucial to maintain the sealants’ effectiveness.

Who can benefit from dental sealants?

Children at high risk of tooth decay

Children who have a history of tooth decay or are deemed to be at high risk are ideal candidates for dental sealants. Sealants offer an extra layer of protection and help mitigate the risk of developing cavities, preventing further dental problems down the road.

Children with deep grooves and pits

Children with deep grooves and pits on their back teeth are more prone to tooth decay. Dental sealants are an effective solution for this specific group, as they seal off the vulnerable areas and reduce the likelihood of decay.

Adults with susceptible teeth

Although dental sealants are most commonly associated with children, adults with teeth that are prone to decay can also benefit from this preventive treatment. Dental sealants provide an added layer of protection for vulnerable teeth, reducing the risk of cavities and preserving oral health.

When should children get dental sealants?

Timing considerations

The ideal time for children to get dental sealants is when their permanent molars and premolars come in. This typically occurs between the ages of 6 and 14. Dental sealants can also be applied to baby teeth in certain circumstances, particularly if the child is at a high risk of tooth decay.

Permanent teeth eruption

It is important to monitor the eruption of permanent teeth in children. As soon as the molars and premolars have fully erupted, dental sealants can be applied to provide immediate protection from tooth decay. Early application of sealants helps safeguard the teeth during the most vulnerable stage, minimizing the risk of decay.

How long do dental sealants last?

Durability of sealants

Dental sealants are designed to be long-lasting. With proper care and maintenance, they can last for several years. However, the longevity of sealants can vary depending on factors such as oral hygiene practices, eating habits, and clenching or grinding of teeth. Regular dental check-ups are important to monitor the condition of the sealants and ensure they are still intact and providing adequate protection.

Monitoring and maintenance

Sealants should be regularly checked by a dentist during routine dental visits. The dentist will examine the sealants for any signs of wear, chipping, or damage. If necessary, they can be repaired or replaced to ensure continued protection. Good oral hygiene practices, including regular brushing with fluoride toothpaste and flossing, are vital in maintaining the integrity and effectiveness of dental sealants.

Potential disadvantages of dental sealants

Limited protection area

Dental sealants only protect the chewing surfaces of the back teeth, leaving other surfaces vulnerable to decay. It is important to continue practicing good oral hygiene, including brushing and flossing, to maintain overall oral health.

Sealant wear and tear

While dental sealants are durable, they can wear down over time due to the natural wear and tear of chewing and biting. It is essential to have sealants regularly checked by a dentist to ensure their integrity and effectiveness. If needed, damaged or worn sealants can be repaired or replaced.


Dental sealants are a valuable preventive dental treatment, particularly for children. They provide an additional layer of protection, sealing off vulnerable areas of the teeth and reducing the risk of tooth decay and cavities. Dental sealants are safe when applied by trained professionals, and the benefits they offer far outweigh any potential risks. By getting dental sealants at the appropriate time and maintaining good oral hygiene practices, children can enjoy long-lasting protection and maintain optimal oral health.