What are sealants and when should I have them done?

Dental sealants are thin coatings made of plastic that are applied to the surfaces of teeth that 

see the most wear from chewing. This is generally in the rear of the mouth, the premolar and 

molar teeth. The sealant is designed to harden in the crevices of the teeth in which it is applied. 

It is applied as a sort of shield to prevent future tooth decay. Even the most fastidious of 

brushers and flossers can still miss the tiny food particles that get lodged in those odd shaped 

molar teeth. The sealant fills these crevices and prevents food from getting stuck in the future.

Sealants are most beneficial in the early stages of life, in children and teenagers. As stated 

earlier the molars and premolars see the most benefit from getting this treatment, so it is a 

smart thing to seal off your child’s adult molar and premolar teeth when they first erupt.

Some dentists even recommend sealants for baby teeth, but this would only be under a 

circumstance in which the shape of the baby teeth are prone to decay. This would be shown by 

deep grooves or crevices in the child’s teeth. The healthier a child’s baby teeth are, the more 

likely they will stay in exactly as long as they are supposed to. Think of the baby teeth as place 

holders, saving the spot for the adult teeth before they come in. If the baby teeth fall out too 

early, this can lead to a need for orthodontic care as the adult teeth may not come in as 

naturally and easily as they should.

Although the effectiveness of sealants can be seen most clearly in the adolescent group, many 

adults could profit from their application as well. Adults with molars that are free from fillings or 

cavities can get sealants applied as that same preemptive measure. Even with great dental 

hygiene, teeth weaken and become more vulnerable over time, so it’s not a bad idea to seal off 

a tooth if it’s still in good shape. The sealant will help keep it that way for many years to come. 

For those curious about the application procedure, see below:

1. The teeth that have the most to gain from a sealant will be cleaned.

2. The cleaned teeth are then dried out. Absorbent pads are put near and around the tooth 

to prevent any moisture from saliva getting on the tooth again.

3. A weak acid is put on the surfaces of the teeth to create texture. This newly textured 

enamel grips the sealant much better than smooth enamel. The acid is rinsed off and the 

teeth are dried and padded again.

4. The sealant gets painted onto the textured area where it fills the crevices and hardens. 

Typically a UV light is used to speed up the curing stage.