According to the American Dental Association (ADA), cavities, or tooth decay, is the most common infectious disease affecting children. Many parents don’t realize how cavities can be prevented: a healthy diet low in processed sugars, brushing twice a day, flossing daily, and visiting the dentist for routine checkups. One more simple and pain-free treatment parents should be aware of – sealants.

What are sealants?

Sealants are thin, protective coatings a dentist applies to back teeth to prevent decay. The coating fills in and protects the chewing surface of the molar, where bacteria and acid love to hide, reducing the chances of your child getting a cavity.

Sealants reduce decay in molars as much as 80%. Proper brushing and flossing help rid your teeth’s smooth surface from food particles and plaque. But toothbrush bristles can’t reach into the deeper grooves of some teeth, making it difficult to dislodge food and bacteria, which may begin enamel erosion.

Sealants are typically used on permanent teeth and take a few minutes to apply. Here’s how it works:

  • The tooth is thoroughly cleaned.
  • The chewing surface is prepared to apply the sealant.
  • Sealant is painted on the chewing surface.
  • Finally, a curing light is held over the sealant until hardened.

The process is easy, effective and pain-free – making it a positive experience for children.

Who is eligible for sealants?

Sealants are ideal for children as early as age 5, who have had their cavity-free permanent molars come in. Most dental plans cover sealants up to age 18, however, please consult your child’s dentist on the right time to get sealants. Children typically get sealants between ages six and twelve – the time when most permanent molars emerge.

Sealants are a preventive treatment to stop cavities from forming, much like a dental cleaning. Sealants may last for more than five years, but it’s best to schedule routine checkups with your child’s dentist to ensure they’re protecting your child’s teeth properly.

Sealants in schools

To improve the oral health of Hawaii’s children, the HDS Foundation partners with Hawaii Keiki to make sealants available in schools across Hawaii. This new program offers dental screenings and sealant applications at Title I elementary schools. The screening and sealant treatments are provided at no cost to families and requires parents’ written consent to participate in the program.

To learn more about sealants, visit