Sealants are a safe, painless and low cost way to help protect your child’s back teeth from decay. A thin plastic coating is bonded to the chewing surface of the molars and premolars. The sealant forms a hard shield that keeps food and bacteria from getting into the tiny grooves in the teeth and causing decay.

The chewing surface of the back teeth have tiny grooves that form as each tooth develops This is where most decay occurs in children. That is because the bristles of a toothbrush can’t get down into the grooves to remove the food and bacteria that get trapped there. Usually the molars and premolars are sealed.

Sealants should be applied as soon as the first permanent molars come in, between 5-7 years of age. The second molars and premolars should be sealed as soon as they come in, between 11-14 years of age. This is because the greatest chance of tooth decay occurs during the first year after the teeth come in. However, it is never too late to apply sealants, as long as the teeth are free of decay and fillings.

Sealants can last for many years. If they chip or come off, they can easily be replaced. Any problems can be detected and corrected at your child’s regular dental checkups. As long as the sealants are in place, decay cannot develop in the grooves. You can help the sealants last by encouraging your child not to chew on ice cubes or hard or sticky candy.