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Protective Procedures - Sealants - Protect Your Child's Teeth from Decay - 05/15/2003

What Are Sealants?
Sealants are a safe, painless, and low-cost way to help protect your child's back teeth from decay. Sealants have been used on children's teeth for more than 20 years. A thin, plastic, tooth-colored or clear coating (sealant) is bonded to the chewing surfaces of the molars and premolars. This forms a hard shield that keeps food and bacteria from getting into the tiny grooves in the teeth and causing decay.

Why Should Children Have Sealants?
The chewing surfaces of the back teeth have tiny grooves that form as each tooth develops. This is where most decay occurs in children. That's because the bristles of a toothbrush can't get down into the grooves to remove the food and bacteria that get trapped there.

When Should Children Get Sealants?
Sealants should be applied as soon as the first permanent molars (6-year molars) erupt (come in). This occurs between 5 and 7 years of age. The second molars (12-year molars) and the premolars should be sealed as soon as they erupt, between 11 and 14 years of age. That's because the greatest chance of decay occurs during the first year after the teeth erupt. However, it's never too late to apply sealants, as long as the teeth are free of decay and fillings.

How Long Does Sealing Take?
Generally, all the back teeth can be sealed in one 30- to 60-minute office visit.

Will Insurance Cover Sealants?
Many dental insurance plans cover all or part of the cost of sealants for children. Check with your insurance company for details.