Tooth decay often occurs in the grooves on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth where plaque tends to accumulate. Sealants serve as a barrier against tooth decay.

What causes tooth decay?

Teeth are covered with plaque, a sticky film of bacteria. The bacteria convert sugar and starch into harmful acids that attack tooth enamel. Repeated attacks may cause the enamel to break down, resulting in cavities.

What is a sealant?

It is a plastic material (resin) applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth – the premolars and molars. The resin bonds to the depressions and grooves (called pits and fissures) in the back teeth. A sealant is a barrier that protects tooth enamel from plaque and acids.

Why are sealants necessary?

The back teeth have uneven pits and fissures that are difficult to keep clean because toothbrush bristles cannot reach into them. The pits and fissures hold plaque and food debris. Most tooth decay occurs in these hard-to-clean grooves. Sealants form a thin covering to keep out plaque and debris and decrease the risk of decay.

How are sealants applied?

It takes only a few minutes to seal each tooth. The procedure, which is virtually painless, rarely involves drilling or anesthesia.

The teeth are cleaned and chewing surfaces are conditioned to help the sealant adhere to the tooth. The sealant is “painted” onto the chewing surface, where it flows into the pits and fissures, bonds to the tooth and hardens. A special curing light may be used to help the sealant harden.

Who is a candidate for sealants?

Children and teenagers are primary candidates for sealants because the likelihood of developing decay begins as soon as the back teeth appear. Sealants are usually placed on the surfaces of teeth that have not been previously filled and show no signs of decay. Adults can benefit from sealants too. Prevention is always better than treatment. Sealants are extremely effective in preventing tooth decay on the back teeth and can save patients money in the long run.

To view an informative video on how sealants are applied, please click on this link This video is brought to by the American Dental Association.

*** Information is provided from the ©2005 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Visit for additional information about oral health care.