Simple Steps To Better Dental Health
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Featuring consumer information from Columbia School of Dental & Oral Surgery
Oral Health Made Simple: Your Prescription For Knowledge
Small BoxAll About Cavities
Small BoxBrushing and Flossing
Small BoxFluoride
Small BoxMouth-Healthy Eating
Small BoxSealants
Small BoxTaking Care of Your Teeth
Small BoxTobacco
Small BoxYour Dental Visit
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Small BoxBad Breath
Small BoxCavities
Small BoxCold Sores
Small BoxDry Mouth
Small BoxImpacted Tooth
Small BoxSensitive Teeth
Small BoxTMJ
Small BoxTooth Discoloration
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Small BoxCrowns
Small BoxDentures
Small BoxFillings: The Basics
Small BoxGum Surgery
Small BoxImplants
Small BoxRoot Canal Treatment
Small BoxScaling and Root Planing
Small BoxWhitening
Small BoxMORE
Small BoxControlling Pain
Small BoxCosmetic Dentistry
Small BoxEmergencies
Small BoxFill, Repair, Replace
Small BoxKids And Teens
Small BoxOral Health and Your Body
Small BoxOrthodontics
Small BoxPeriodontics
Small BoxSeniors
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Step 1 Prevent ProblemsSimplestepsPrevent Problems
Step 2 Understand ConditionsSimplestepsUnderstand Conditions
Step 3 Explore TreatmentsSimplestepsExplore Treatments

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Dental Sealants

space placeholder
space placeholder.What Is It?.
space placeholder.What It's Used For.
space placeholder.Preparation.
space placeholder.How It's Done.
space placeholder.Follow-Up.
space placeholder.Risks.
space placeholder.When to Call a Professional.
space placeholder.Additional Info.
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space placeholder.What Is It?
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A sealant is a clear or tinted plastic protective coating for teeth. It is painted onto the chewing surfaces of the back teeth (molars and premolars). These are the areas where most cavities form.

Molars and premolars have grooves and crevices. Dentists call these pits and fissures. Food can get stuck in these crevices. Some are so deep that the bristles of a toothbrush can't reach into them.

Grooves and crevices provide the perfect environment for bacteria to grow and cause cavities. Sealants help to prevent this from happening. They cover the grooves and crevices so that food cannot get into them.

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space placeholder.What It's Used For
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Sealants are applied to teeth to help prevent cavities. In the past, they usually were used only in children. But adults also can get sealants. View our illustrations to see how sealants are applied.

Not only are sealants very effective, they cost a lot less than filling cavities.

In children, sealants can be applied to baby molars to protect them from cavities. Eventually, these molars fall out and the new, permanent molars come in. These molars can be sealed, too. Most dentists recommend that sealants be applied to each permanent molar as soon as possible.

If your child has a high risk of cavities, your dentist may decide to seal the premolars, or bicuspids, as well. The premolars are the teeth directly in front of the molars.

Sealants can be used in adults who have an increased risk of developing cavities. Your dentist can suggest whether sealants are appropriate for you.

Sealants can be put on teeth that show early signs of decay. But once the decay has broken through the enamel, the tooth will need a filling.

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space placeholder.Preparation
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Applying sealants is quick and painless. It can be done during a routine dental visit. No injections are needed. However, it is very important to sit still so the tooth or teeth being worked on will stay dry. This allows the sealant material to stick properly to the tooth.

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space placeholder.How It's Done
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The dentist cleans the area to remove any food or debris in and around the teeth. Then he or she makes sure the teeth are dry so that the sealant can stick. The sealant is applied in liquid form. It flows over and into the grooves and crevices. The sealant usually hardens (sets) within 20 to 60 seconds. Sometimes it is set with a special light.

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space placeholder.Follow-Up
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Studies show that sealants can last a long time, sometimes as long as 15 years. But they don't last forever.

The dentist will check the sealants during routine visits. If necessary, the sealants can be replaced.

Remember, sealants work well, but they can't keep teeth cavity-free without some help. Keep brushing twice a day, flossing at least once a day, and visiting a dentist regularly.

Children with sealants still should:

  • Brush twice a day with a pea-size amount of fluoride toothpaste.
  • Floss between any teeth that touch each other.
  • Get the right amount of fluoride, either by drinking fluoridated water or taking fluoride liquid or pills.
  • See a dentist regularly.
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space placeholder.Risks
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Although it is rare, sealants can cause problems in people who are allergic to plastics or components of plastics. There has also been some concern about the possible harmful effects of bisphenol A (BPA). This chemical is found in some sealants. However, studies show that any release of BPA from sealants is very small and limited to the time right after they are applied. The American Dental Association and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have found that sealants are safe.

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space placeholder.When to Call a Professional
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Ask your dentist to talk with you about the benefits of sealants. Most pediatric dentists (dentists who specifically treat children) use sealants routinely. However, not all dentists do so. Therefore, your dentist may not think to talk with you about them.

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space placeholder.Additional Info
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American Academy of General Dentistry
560 W. Lake St.
Sixth Floor
Chicago, IL 60611-6600
Toll-Free: 1-888-243-3368

American Dental Association
211 E. Chicago Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611-2678
Phone: 312-440-2500

American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry
211 E. Chicago Ave.
Suite 1700
Chicago, IL 60611-2637
Phone: 312-337-2169

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