Brushing and flossing are the best ways to help prevent cavities, but it is not always easy to clean every inch of your teeth, especially those teeth at the back of your mouth (called molars) that you use to chew. Molars are rough and uneven, a favorite place for leftover food and cavity-causing bacteria to hide. However, there is a safety net to help keep those teeth clean. It’s called a dental sealant, a thin, protective coating that adheres to the chewing surface of your back teeth.


Dental sealants are no substitute for brushing and flossing, but they can keep cavities from forming and may even stop early stages of decay from becoming a full-blown cavity. You may have questions about dental sealants. We have answers for you:


How Do Dental Sealants Work?

When the cavity-causing bacteria that live in everyone’s mouth meet leftover food particles, they produce acids that can create holes in teeth. These holes are cavities. After a dental sealant has been applied it keeps those bits of food out and stops bacteria and acid from settling on your teeth.


Who Can Get Dental Sealants?

Children and adults can benefit from dental sealants, but the earlier you get them, the better. For children, their first molars appear around age 6, and their second molars break through around age 12. Sealing these teeth as soon as they come through can keep them cavity-free from the start, which helps save time and money in the long run.


How Are Dental Sealants Applied?

It’s a quick and painless process. The dentist will clean and dry your tooth before placing an acidic gel on your teeth. This gel roughs up your tooth surface so a strong bond will form between your tooth and the sealant. After a few seconds, the dentist will rinse off the gel and dry your tooth once again before applying the sealant onto the grooves of your tooth. The dentist will then use a special blue light to harden the sealant.


Can Dental Sealants Be Placed Over Cavities?

Dental sealants can be used over areas of early decay to prevent further damage to your tooth. Because some sealants are clear, the dentist can keep an eye on the tooth to make sure the sealant is doing its job.


Are There Any Side Effects?

With the exception of an allergy that may exist, there are no known side effects from sealants.