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Sealants
General Overview

Dental sealants act as a barrier, protecting the teeth against decay-causing bacteria. The sealants are usually applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth (premolars and molars) where decay occurs most often.


How does a sealant help prevent decay?

A sealant is a plastic material that is usually applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth ?premolars and molars. This plastic resin bonds into the depressions and grooves (pits and fissures) of the chewing surfaces of back teeth. The sealant acts as a barrier, protecting enamel from plaque and acids.

Thorough brushing and flossing help remove food particles and plaque from smooth surfaces of teeth. But toothbrush bristles cannot reach all the way into the depressions and grooves to extract food and plaque. Sealants protect these vulnerable areas by "sealing out" plaque and food.

Is sealant application a complicated procedure?

Sealants are easy for your dentist to apply, and it takes only a few minutes to seal each tooth. The teeth that will be sealed are cleaned. Then the chewing surfaces are roughened with an acid solution to help the sealant adhere to the tooth. The 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 sealant harden.

As long as the sealant remains intact, the tooth surface will be protected from decay. Sealants hold up well under the force of normal chewing and usually last several years before a reapplication is needed. During your regular dental visits, your dentist will check the condition of the sealants and reapply them when necessary

Sealants are just for kids, right?

The likelihood of developing pit and fissure decay begins early in life, so children and teenagers are obvious candidates. But adults can benefit from sealants as well.

Key ingredients in preventing tooth decay and maintaining a healthy mouth are twice-daily brushing with an ADA-accepted fluoride toothpaste; cleaning between the teeth daily with floss or interdental cleaners; eating a balanced diet and limiting snacks; and visiting your dentist regularly. Ask your dentist about whether sealants can put extra power behind your prevention program.

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ADA News Releases
February 2000

Sealants: An Investment in the Future

CHICAGO -- One of the best ways to protect a child's teeth from tooth decay is with dental sealants. During this National Children's Dental Health Month, the American Dental Association (ADA) wants to remind parents that dental sealants are a good investment in the oral health of their children.

"Dental sealants are an investment in the teeth before decay sets in," says Matthew Messina, DDS, an ADA Consumer Advisor. "Dental sealants protect the teeth through the cavity-prone years, ages six to 14, when back teeth are first susceptible to decay," Dr. Messina explains. "We help the kids with extra protection on their teeth until they learn how to do a better job of brushing and flossing."

Dental sealants act as a barrier, protecting the teeth against decay-causing bacteria. The sealants are usually applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth (premolars and molars) where decay occurs most often.

"Applying dental sealants is a simple, painless procedure that's also inexpensive compared to filling a cavity," Dr. Messina says. "And while we most often think of sealants for children, adults can benefit from sealants, too, especially on back molars."

While sealants can play an important role in preventing tooth decay, it's still very important to brush and floss each day and visit the dentist regularly. The ADA recommends children brush their teeth with a pea-sized amount of an ADA-accepted fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day and clean between their teeth once a day.

For more information about dental sealants, oral health care and National Children's Dental Health Month, please visit the ADA's Web site at http://www.ada.org.

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