Dental Sealants

November 7, 2022, Kyle Isaacs

Dental sealants. You may have heard of dental sealants if you have older kids. When I was little, sealants were not available yet, so I ended up with cavities on the chewing surfaces of my back teeth. Here is a little secret: my dad was a dentist, and I still got cavities. No one is immune to getting cavities, but dental sealants prevent 80% of cavities in the back teeth, where 9 in 10 cavities occur. Isn’t that amazing?

Little girl sits in dental chair and wears protective glasses.The Centers for Disease Control has said that kids ages 6-11 who don’t have sealants are 3x more likely to get cavities compared to kids who have them. Sealants are one of the most preventative treatments dental professionals can do on the chewing surfaces of the teeth. It is quick, easy, and painless for kids and is very effective. It’s a win-win for everyone.

When teeth first erupt or come into the mouth, they are not fully mineralized (this means they are not as hard as they will eventually be), and they can decay much more quickly soon after they show up in the mouth. The back teeth have deep grooves and pits in them that food and bacteria get caught in; these areas are not easy to clean with a toothbrush. Sealants cover the pits and grooves, keeping the bacteria and food out. This helps to prevent cavities on chewing surfaces.

See full infographic and text description

So, what are dental sealants? They are a thin white, clear, or even pink coating that is painted on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth. They take a few minutes to apply. First, the teeth are cleaned with a cleaner that is applied, rinsed, and dried with air (some types do not require drying). Next, some sealants are hardened by holding a special blue light on the sealed teeth for about 20 seconds. Other types of sealants need the child to wait a few minutes with a cotton roll between the front teeth to allow the sealant material to harden before we let them go. Sealants are easy and effective.

 Esta infografía muestra a un profesional de la salud dental con guantes.

The most important times to screen for and apply sealants are around age six when the first permanent molars come in, and age 12, when the second permanent molars erupt. Some kids will get their molars earlier and some later, so having an assessment twice a year helps to catch these new teeth at the best times. Sometimes sealants need to be redone as they only last for a while, but I have seen some last a long time. This is why seeing your dental provider regularly is important, as it allows for the sealants to be checked and if they need to be repaired or replaced.

Although applying sealants decreases the number of cavities in the molars, kids can still get cavities on the tongue side of their teeth and in between their teeth, where it’s harder for the toothbrush to reach. So, it is important to floss and clean your child’s teeth every day and also eat foods that help prevent cavities. I wrote a blog on this if you have not yet read it. Here is the link to that blog if you need more information: Snacking and tooth decay – Pollywog (

Little baby girl sitting at dental chair with open mouth during oral check up.Because it is quick and easy to apply sealants, this important treatment not only helps prevent cavities, but it also helps kids get used to having dental procedures in the dental chair just in case they need other treatment at other times in their lives.

Another way that Benton County Dental Services (where I work) has been helpful is in the schools. We go to the schools and do oral screenings, sealants, and apply fluoride varnish. Kids feel more comfortable at school with friends to support them. Some kids come in scared and leave feeling brave and realizing that it was really easy and nothing to fear. We have set the stage for a good relationship with dental providers and long-term good oral health. I see so many adults with dental fears and many hours of dental treatment over the years. My goal is not only to prevent tooth decay and gum disease but also to help all people who love to come and see us! Sealants are one way to do this.