SummaryRead the full fact sheet
- Dental sealants are put onto teeth to help prevent tooth decay.
- Sealants fill up the small grooves and pits on your teeth that are hard to clean, making a smooth, easy-to-clean surface.
- Tooth brushing, limiting sugary foods and drinks and drinking plenty of tap water also helps to prevent tooth decay.
The chewing surfaces of the back can have tiny grooves, known as fissures. can easily start in fissures where food can get stuck and where it is hard to clean. The grooves are so small that toothbrush bristles can’t get into them to clean away food and bacteria.
Sealants are thin plastic coatings that cover the grooves on the chewing surface of back teeth. They help to prevent tooth decay by creating a smooth, easier to clean surface. Sealants were developed in the 1960s and have been widely used since then.
Causes of tooth decay
Everyone has the bacteria that cause tooth decay living in their mouth. When you eat sugary foods, the bacteria eat them too and produce acid, which damages the tooth surface (the enamel).
Saliva (spit) contains minerals that help repair the tooth surface. Fluoride, found in toothpaste and most of Victoria’s drinking water, also helps to repair damage. However, if over time there is more acid damage than repair, a cavity or ‘hole’ forms in the tooth surface.
Benefits of dental sealants
Sealants are used to fill up the small grooves or fissures in your back teeth, keeping food and bacteria out and preventing decay.
There are several benefits to using sealants. They:
- are white or clear
- fill and block up the small pits and grooves in the teeth to prevent decay
- take a few minutes to apply
- do not cause pain
- do not require you to have any injections or drilling
- do not dissolve in saliva
- are safe.
Sealants are put on by an oral health professional (, dental therapist or oral health therapist). They usually last from two to seven years, but may last much longer. Sealants need to be checked regularly by your oral health professional.
When sealants may be used
Most decay starts in the narrow pits and grooves on the biting surfaces of the back teeth (molars). The permanent molars have the highest risk of tooth decay and benefit the most from dental sealants.
For most children, the first permanent molars come through at about six or seven years of age and the second molars about age 11 or 12 years. As the molars come through, they are at greater risk of tooth decay as they are further back in the mouth and may not be cleaned as well as the front teeth. At these times, it is particularly important to keep up with your child’s regular dental check-ups.
How dental sealants are put on
The oral health professional will:
- prepare your teeth by cleaning and drying them
- put on the sealant – a thin layer of plastic liquid is painted into the pit (similar to the way nail polish is painted onto a fingernail)
- set the sealant – the sealant is set and becomes hard using a special light.
Other tips to help prevent tooth decay
Steps you can take to help prevent tooth decay include:
- Brush all surfaces of your teeth, including along the gum line twice a day, in the morning and before bed.
- From 18 months of age, use a fluoride toothpaste. Use a low fluoride children’s toothpaste for children aged 18 months to six years of age, and standard fluoride for people six years and older.
- Follow the Australian Dietary Guidelines and enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods from the five food groups every day.
- Avoid sugary foods and drinks, especially between meals.
- Drink plenty of tap water. Most of Victoria’s drinking water has fluoride, which helps to repair damage to teeth.
- Have regular dental check-ups. Ask your oral health professional how often you should have a check-up.