How effective are dental sealants in preventing tooth decay?

As long as dental sealants remain intact, they can protect the chewing surfaces from decay in children and adults. Sealants are durable and can stand up to daily chewing forces for months or even years. Of course, everyone is different, and the protective coating may wear down at different rates in different people. Seeing your dentist on a regular basis is the best way to ensure that your sealants are in good condition. Sealants are valuable in protecting the chewing surfaces of molars, but regular brushing is needed to prevent tooth decay.
When done well and maintained under the watchful eye of a dentist, they can be very effective.

However, I have seen where they can actually cause problems rather then prevent problems. If the resin isn't bonded well to the tooth, or part of it breaks down and leaks, bacteria can thrive under the defective sealant and cause an non-cleanable area. If that occurs, the cavity can get quite large.

It is very important to get your teeth checked regularly to prevent the above situation.
Properly placed sealants can prevent tooth decay in the surfaces of the teeth that they are covering. A dental sealant seals the grooves in the biting surfaces of the teeth. The sealant prevents plaque from coming in contact with the tooth surface that it covers. Plaque produces acids that can cause tooth decay. By preventing the plaque from contacting the teeth, cavities in these surfaces of the teeth can be prevented. 

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