What Are Dental Sealants? Everything You Should Know About Dental Sealants

What Are Dental Sealants?

Dental sealants are thin coatings made of mainly plastic, that are placed on the occlusal—chewing— the surface of the permanent molars and premolars (the back teeth).

The back teeth’s surfaces have fissures—or grooves—which can accumulate food debris and plaque. This will, in turn, make them vulnerable to decay or dental caries. 

The sealant can quickly bond to these grooves, and so will protect the enamel of these molars from food particles, and plaque. 

Why Do We Need Dental Sealants?

The grooves on the occlusal surfaces of the premolar and molar teeth can be quite difficult to clean properly, since they can be too narrow for a toothbrush’s single bristle, and can be difficult to reach.

As a result, plaque—a thin, sticky film of bacterial mass—can accumulate in these areas.

In turn, these bacteria will break down sugar in food particles, producing acids in the process. Acid is extremely detrimental to your tooth’s enamel (the outermost, hard surface), and will cause decay and cavities. 

Dental sealant, as the name suggests, will ‘seal’ these fissures so plaque and bacteria can’t touch the tooth’s surface. A sealant is an effective procedure to prevent decay, and maintain the hygiene of these molars.

Different Types of Tooth Sealants

Dental sealants can be categorized into two different categories based on material:

  • Glass ionomer

Glass ionomer sealants will undergo an acid-base reaction as they bond with the teeth’ surfaces. It has a relatively low tensile strength, and relatively stiffer. However, glass ionomer sealants will produce higher fluoride release and shrink less during setting.

  • Composite Resin

Composite resin tooth sealants don’t use acid-base bonding method, but will rely on polymerization reaction—usually triggered with a UV light—. Produce less fluoride release, but offer higher tensile strength. Less likely to desiccate compared to glass ionomer. 

Also, there are hybrid types combining the two: resin-modified glass ionomers, and polyacid-modified resins. They will utilize both acid reaction and polymerization for the bonding processes.


How Will Tooth Sealants Look?

Dental sealants are generally transparent, retaining your teeth’s natural looks and color. Glass ionomer sealants are completely clear/transparent, and composite resin sealants produce a slight white tint, but still mostly transparent. 


Who Should Get Dental Sealants?

Sealants ideally should be placed before the back teeth—premolars and molars— developed any decay, when they are in their prime conditions.

So, the most suitable candidates to get dental sealants are children—as soon as their permanent back teeth erupt— and teenagers. This is also considering the fact that age 6 to 14 tend to be the riskiest in developing dental cavities.

So, it’s very common for children to get the very first sealant on the grooves of the first permanent premolar or a molar tooth that erupted. As more of the back teeth erupt until around 12 or 13 years of age (excepting the wisdom teeth), more sealants will be placed.

In rare cases, dental sealants may be applied to baby teeth, for example when the baby tooth has exceptionally deep fissures and at significant risk to produce decay.

Adults without decay or existing fillings in their back teeth can also get dental sealants for extra protection.

How Long Will a Tooth Sealant Last?


Once the dentist has successfully implemented the tooth sealant, it can last for up to a decade—with proper care and good oral hygiene—. 

Dental sealants will wear away over time, safely digested by the body, so if necessary you can receive new dental sealants without removal. 

The dentist will check your sealants’ conditions every time you come in for a regular check-up and cleaning and might reapply a new sealant if necessary. However, in general, sealants should last for more than 5 years before you need a replacement. 

How Are Dental Sealants Applied?

Applying a dental sealant is a fairly simple and safe procedure, and won’t cause any pain even on children patients. 

Also, applying a sealant on a single tooth will only take a few minutes, with just a few simple processes:

  1. A thorough cleaning of the tooth that is going to receive sealant. It has to be as clean as possible.
  2. The tooth is then dried properly, commonly by placing absorbent material (i.e. cotton) and replacing it a few times if necessary to keep the tooth completely dry
  3. If the sealant is glass ionomer type, a safe acid solution is applied on the occlusal surface of the tooth. If the sealant is composite resin, skip to step 4. 
  4. The tooth is rinsed and dried again
  5. A sealant is then painted onto the tooth’s surface, if the sealant is composite resin, a dental curing light is used to initiate the polymerization process.

Is Dental Sealant Safe?

The main concern surrounding dental sealant is BPA (Bisphenol A.), a chemical substance used to create plastics and resins. BPA in high concentrations can affect the brain and change children’s behavior.

However, research by the American Dental Association in 2016 has shown that children are exposed to more BPA from food and drinks, and even the air compared to the amount included in dental sealants.

The average amount of BPA included in dental sealants is just.09 nanograms, while the safe limit for a 6-year-old child proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency  is 1 million nanograms per day. 

To answer, yes, dental sealant is completely safe.


Will My Insurance Cover the Cost of Dental Sealant?

Most health insurance providers in the U.S. cover the cost of dental sealants for patients younger than 18—this is why getting sealants for your children as soon as possible is recommended—. Check with your health or dental insurance provider to find out whether dental sealants are covered.


End Words


Dental sealant is an effective, painless, and long-term solution to protect permanent back teeth—molars and premolars—from decay and enamel erosion.

Dentists at Markham Smile Centre provide professional assistance in applying dental sealants for children and adults. Contact our office and our professional dental specialists are ready to help you with your oral hygiene and health needs.

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