A sealant is a thin plastic coating that is bonded to the chewing surfaces of the molars and premolars. The sealant forms a hard shield that keeps food and bacteria from penetrating the tiny grooves on the surfaces of the teeth preventing decay. While fluoride helps protect the smooth surfaces on the front and sides of teeth from decay, the back teeth have tiny grooves that a toothbrush cannot reach. Sealants can protect these back teeth and are a safe, painless and low-cost way to protect your child's back teeth from decay.
When should children get sealants?
Sealants can be applied as soon as the first permanent molars (6-year molars) come in, between five and seven years of age. The second molars (12-year molars) and the premolars can also be sealed as soon as they emerge, usually between eleven and fourteen years of age. It is important to seal the teeth as soon as they come in since it is during this first year that the teeth have the greatest threat of decay. However, it's never too late to apply sealants, as long as the teeth are free of decay and fillings.
What About Baby Teeth?
The baby molars often do not need to be sealed, however the dentist may recommend sealing the baby molars if there is a high risk of decay. Since baby teeth are really "space holders" for the permanent teeth, losing baby molars due to decay can cause crowding when the permanent teeth come in.