Dental Sealants

Dental sealants, also known as pit and fissure sealants, are thin, plastic coatings painted on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth to keep germs and food out of their pits and grooves. Studies supported by the NIH’s National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research and others have shown that sealants are safe and effective. But many people don’t know about sealants. In fact, fewer than one-third of children in the U.S. have sealants on their teeth.

How can I get sealants for my children?

Talk to your dentist about getting sealants for your children. Some health insurance programs pay for sealants; ask your health insurance provider or your state Medicaid office. Sometimes sealants are also put on at school. Check with your school about whether it has a dental sealant program.*

Why Sealants Are Used

The grooves on the top of back molars are deep and hard to clean with a toothbrush. Bacteria can build up in the grooves and cause cavities.

Dental sealants can help:

  • Keep food, acids, and plaque from sitting in the grooves of the molars
  • Prevent decay and cavities
  • Save time, money, and the discomfort of getting a filling

Children are most at risk for cavities on back molars. Sealants can help protect permanent molars. Molars come in when children are about 6 years old and then again when they are 12 years old. Getting sealants soon after the molars have come in will help protect them from cavities.

Adults who do not have cavities or decay on their molars can also get sealants.

Sealants last about 5 to 10 years. Your dentist should check them at each visit in case a sealant needs to be replaced.

How Dental Sealants Are Applied

Your dentist applies sealants on the molars in a few quick steps. There is no drilling or scraping of the molars. Your dentist will:

  • Clean the tops of the molars.
  • Put an acid gel on the top of the molar for a few seconds.
  • Rinse and dry the molars.
  • Paint the sealant on the molars.
  • Shine a light on the sealant to help it dry and harden. This takes about a minute.

Cost and Insurance Coverage

Ask your dental office about the cost of dental sealants. The cost of dental sealants is usually priced per tooth.

  • Many dental insurance plans cover the cost of dental sealants.
  • Check with your insurance plan to see if the cost of sealants is covered.
  • Your insurance plan may have some limits on coverage that you should know about. For example, sealants may be covered only up to a certain age.

When to Call the Doctor

You should call the dentist if you:

  • Feel that your bite is not right
  • Lose your sealant

Ahovuo-Saloranta A, Forss H, Walsh T, Hiiri A, Nordblad A, Mäkelä M, Worthington HV. Sealants for preventing dental decay in the permanent teeth.Cochrane Database Syst Rev.

Beauchamp J, Caufield PW, Crall JJ, et al. Evidence-based clinical recommendations for the use of pit-and-fissure sealants: A report of the American Dental Association Council on Scientific Affairs.Journal of the American Dental Association.


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