Dental News |4 min read

What is a Sealant and Why Does My Tooth Need It?

Avatar for Fidler on the Tooth by Fidler on the Tooth

Sealants can be used by both kids and adults to protect their teeth.

Here at Fidler on the Tooth, we believe the best way to keep your mouth healthy and cavity-free is to stay on top of your homecare and your preventative dental treatment.  Of course, we will always recommend you brush and floss daily at home and that you come in regularly for cleanings and exams.  But, some additional treatment that helps keep cavities at bay, and may be recommended by your dentist, is fluoride and sealants.

I’m sure you’re already familiar with fluoride but what exactly is a sealant, why is it recommended by dentists, and how does it help with your oral health?

What is a sealant?

A sealant is a thin composite or plastic material that gets placed in the pits and grooves of the chewing surfaces of your back teeth, called the premolars and molars.  There are occasions when the back surface of the front teeth may have grooves on them also but it’s pretty rare. Usually, these grooves on the teeth are so narrow that your toothbrush bristles can’t get in there to clean them out properly.

To help prevent these areas from trapping bacteria and causing a cavity to start, we seal them up making it much easier to clean with your toothbrush. Some sealant materials contain small traces of BPA but Dr. Fidler uses BPA-free products only.

sealant on a tooth
Before and After photos of a sealed tooth.

Who should have sealants?

They are recommended for both children and adults. If a permanent tooth, whether it is in your child’s or in your mouth, has never had a cavity and it has deep pits and grooves, then it should be sealed to prevent it from getting a cavity in the future.

How are sealants placed?

  • Clean the surface of the tooth that’s being sealed. If the tooth has heavy staining that may have stained the enamel, the doctor will do what we call an enamoplasty.  It is a non-invasive recontouring of the tooth to help remove most of the stain. This will also help ensure that there’s no underlying decay hidden under the stain.
  • Place a solution to “etch” or slightly roughen the surface to help the material adhere better. It has to sit on the tooth for a few seconds then it will be rinsed and dried.
  • Create a dry environment in the mouth by placing cotton rolls and/or keeping the suction near the tooth. The sealant material will not bond well and it won’t last long if the tooth is not kept dry from this point.
  • Paint prime and bond on the surface of the tooth. It is an adhesive that will keep the sealant in place.
  • Paint on the sealant material, floss teeth to make sure material didn’t get between the teeth, and use a curing light to harden the material.
  • Floss between the teeth again. We check to make sure you’ll be able to floss at home and the teeth are not sealed together.
  • Check the bite to make sure the sealant material is not interfering with the bite. If so, then the sealant material will be shaved down until the bite is back to normal.

How do you take care of sealants?

Teeth with sealants require normal home care.  Brush and floss daily. Rinsing really well with water after each meal also helps to keep foods from sticking to your teeth. It’s not always necessary, but definitely helpful.

How long do sealants last?

Sealants will usually last for several years. Sometimes this is dependent on the types of foods you eat. If you regularly eat hard or crunchy foods for example, then your sealants may start to chip off much sooner.  Dr. Fidler and Dr. Wang will be checking their condition on your yearly exams to make sure they don’t need to be replaced.

Are sealants covered by dental insurance?

Most dental insurances are now covering sealants but there are usually conditions on what they will cover. For example; they may only cover the back molars and if they do, there might be an age limit. You can contact your insurance directly to see if you do have sealant coverage. The front desk staff at Fidler on the Tooth will also be able to get this information for you so let us know if you need our help with your insurance!

For more information about sealants, click on this link to an ADA approved website:

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