A sealant is a thin, plastic coating painted on the chewing surfaces of
teeth, usually the back teeth (premolars and molars), to prevent tooth decay.
The liquid sealant quickly bonds to the depressions and grooves of the teeth
forming a protective shield over the enamel of each tooth.
Why use sealants?
Although thorough brushing and flossing can remove food particles and plaque
from smooth surfaces of teeth, they cannot always get into all the nooks and
crannies of the back teeth to remove the food and plaque. Sealants protect
these vulnerable areas from tooth decay by "sealing out" plaque and food.
Who should use sealants?
Because of the likelihood of developing decay in the depressions and grooves
of the premolars and molars, children and teenagers are obvious candidates for
sealants. However, adults without decay or fillings in their molars can also
benefit from sealants.
Typically, children should have sealants on their permanent molars and
premolars as soon as these teeth come in. In this way, the dental sealants can
protect the teeth through the cavity-prone years of ages six to 14.
In some cases, dental sealants may also be appropriate for baby teeth, such
as when a child's baby teeth have deep depressions and grooves. Because baby
teeth play such an important role in holding the correct spacing for permanent
teeth, it is important to keep these teeth healthy so they are not lost too
How are sealants applied?
Applying the sealant is a simple and painless process. It takes only a few
minutes for your dentist or hygienist to apply the sealant to seal each tooth.
The application steps are as follows:
- First the teeth that are to be sealed are thoroughly cleaned.
- Each tooth is then dried and cotton or another absorbent material is put
around the tooth to keep it dry.
- An acid solution is put on the chewing surfaces of the teeth to roughen
them up, which helps the sealant bond to the teeth.
- The teeth are rinsed and dried.
- Sealant is then painted onto the tooth enamel, where it bonds directly to
the tooth and hardens. Sometimes a special curing light is used to help the
How long do sealants last?
Sealants can protect the teeth from decay for up to 10 years, but they need
to be checked for chipping or wearing at regular dental check-ups. Your dentist
can replace sealants as necessary.
Most NHS dentists can carry out the procedure free of charge, but generally
only if they are for your child and there is a clear clinical need.
Will insurance cover the cost of sealants?
If you have private dental care insurance, your insurance plan may cover the
cost. It is best to check before embarking on any treatment.