Brushing and flossing are the best ways to prevent cavities. However, it’s not always easy to clean every area of your teeth, especially those back teeth you use to chew (called molars). Molars are rough, uneven, and a favourite place for leftover food and cavity-causing bacteria to hide. Certain people are simply more prone to cavities due to the shape and structure of their teeth, not because they don’t brush regularly.  If your dentist notices that you are prone to dental cavities despite having good oral hygiene habits, they may suggest using dental sealants to help keep the teeth healthy.

What are dental sealants?

Dental sealants are thin layers that are placed on the chewing (occlusal) surface of the permanent back teeth (the molars and premolars) to help protect them from cavities.

Why are they placed on teeth?

The chewing surfaces of the back teeth have grooves that make them vulnerable to decay. These fissures can be deep and are difficult to clean. Dental plaque builds up in these areas, and the acids from the bacteria in the plaque attack the enamel causing cavities to develop. Dental sealants provide additional protection by providing a smooth surface covering over the fissured areas.

Who should get dental sealants?

Due to the chance of developing cavities in the depressions and grooves of the premolars and molars, teenagers and young kids, including those who still have baby teeth, are candidates for dental sealants. Sealants are designed to fill and cover the deep top areas of your molars and premolars, which are susceptible to decay/caries because they are known to trap food particles in these areas of the teeth. They serve to protect the tooth from caries altogether.

When are dental sealants placed?

Dental sealants are placed on the fissure of the first permanent molar tooth (back tooth). This tooth comes in behind the baby teeth between six to seven years of age. When the chewing surfaces of these teeth are sealed, the dental sealant will help protect the tooth. Dental sealants can continue to be placed once the chewing surfaces of premolars and molars have erupted beyond the gum. This usually occurs between eleven to thirteen years of age.

Can dental sealants be placed on the teeth of adults?

While it is less common, sealants are placed in adults at high risk for developing cavities. Keep in mind sealants are not the only way to ward off cavities and are definitely not a substitute for regular oral care. Ask your dentist about them during your next checkup. Sealants may be an excellent solution for warding off cavities if you’re the right type of candidate. 

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