Dental sealants, also called a pit and fissure sealants, act as a barrier and protect 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.
Since the early 1970s, childhood dental caries or cavities on smooth, non-chewing tooth surfaces have declined markedly because of widespread exposure to fluorides. By 1986-1987, approximately 90 percent of the decay in children’s teeth occurred in tooth surfaces with pits and fissures, and almost two-thirds were found on the chewing surfaces alone.
Dental sealants have been shown to prevent decay on tooth surfaces with pits and fissures. Sealants have been approved for use for many years and are recommended by professional health associations and public health agencies.
Sealants hold up well under the force of normal chewing and usually last several years before a reapplication is needed. The likelihood of developing pit and fissure decay begins early in life, so children and teenagers are obvious candidates.
First permanent molars erupt into the mouth at about age 6 years and the second permanent molars come in around age 12. Placing sealants on these teeth shortly after they erupt protects them from developing caries in areas of the teeth where food and bacteria collect. Although sealants are especially helpful in protecting children, adults with high risks of decay can also benefit from the procedure.
Sealants that protect chewing surfaces of teeth do not replace fluorides that work best on the smooth surfaces of teeth.
Last updated: 16-Jun-05