Sealants? To Seal or Not To Seal: That is the Question.


Should One Get Sealants?

Research shows that sealants are an effective way to reduce dental caries (cavities) on the chewing surfaces of baby and permanent molars in children and teenagers.

What is a Dental Sealant?

A sealant is a thin filling material that your dentist paints and then cures into the grooves on the top portion of the back teeth.  In many ways it is similar to the way one seals a driveway or outdoor furniture.  The sealant goes into the grooves (dentists call them pits and fissures) of the back teeth much like the nooks and crannies in your driveway. The sealant is then cured in place with a special UV curing light, not unlike the special lights used to glue on nails at the salon.

Sealants for Prevention

Dentists have been using sealants for over 50 years to help prevent caries in the chewing / biting parts of back teeth. This is true for both baby and adult back teeth.  Although there is evidence that children are getting fewer cavities overall, there has not been a similar decrease in cavities on the biting surfaces of these back teeth.   In fact, those cavities on the chewing surfaces of back teeth make up approximately 80% of the cavities in permanent teeth.

This is where dental sealants come in. Essentially, a sealant helps to prevent caries by altering the anatomy of a tooth’s chewing surface. The sealant bonds to the chewing surface flattening the pits, fissures, and other irregularities where cavity-causing bacteria like to hide. It also fills in the small cracks where a toothbrush has trouble getting into.  As part of a comprehensive preventive dental plan, good oral hygiene, fluoride, and sealants  work together to decrease the risk of getting cavities where they are most likely to start – the biting surface of permanent back teeth.

Sealant Application and Maintenance

Sealants are easy!  At Coastal we apply them quickly and sealing teeth is non-invasive. This means NO numbing medicine or shots!

Pediatric Dentist curing a dental sealant with UV light

There are basically four types of sealants:

  • Resin based sealants
  • Glass Ionomer (GI) sealants
  • Polyacid (GI) modified resin sealants
  • Resin modified GI sealants

All types of sealants are placed and work the same way. Most sealants are a tooth-colored material that the dentist flows into the deep pits and fissures of the molars, and then cured with a UV light. Just like dental fillings, sealants are susceptible to wear and tear from oral acids, sticky foods, thermal changes, and normal chewing practices. This is why your child’s dentist routinely checks sealants every 6 months. If they are leaking or starting to come up, your dentist will remove and replace them.

Sealant Recommendations

Dental caries is a preventable oral disease. We recommend dental sealants as part of a comprehensive preventive plan. Per the AAPD (American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry), those at highest risk for dental caries benefit most from sealants.  Talk to your kids dentist about sealants and how it might lower your child’s risk for cavities.