Dental sealants are thin plastic coatings that are applied to the grooves on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth to protect them from tooth decay. Permanent molars are the most likely teeth to benefit from sealants as most tooth decay in children and teens occurs on the biting surfaces of these teeth.
The first permanent molars usually erupt around age 6 and the second molars erupt around age 12 and it is best if the sealant is applied soon after the teeth appear before they have a chance to decay.
Applying sealants does not require drilling or removing tooth structure and the process is short and easy. After the tooth is cleaned, a special gel is placed on the chewing surface for a few seconds. The tooth is then washed off and dried. Then, the sealant is painted on the tooth. The dentist or dental hygienist also may shine a light on the tooth to help harden the sealant. It takes about a minute for the sealant to form a protective shield.
A sealant can last for as long as 5 to 10 years. Sealants are checked at each regular dental appointment and can be reapplied if they are no longer in place.