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.