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Dental and Oral Health Center

Difference Between Dental Sealants & Fluoride



My four year old just went to the dentist and had a fluoride varnish put on his teeth. My daughter is in the second grade and got something called a dental sealant a few months ago at school. Are they actually the same thing or are they different?


Fluoride varnish and dental sealants are different substances that both protect children's teeth from decay (dental caries) at different stages of life. Fluoride varnish protects your child's first teeth, called primary teeth. It is applied twice per year from age one to age six or seven when the child gets their permanent teeth. Fluoride varnish works by repairing (remineralizing) gaps in the tooth enamel, protecting teeth from plaque.

Once children have their permanent teeth, dental sealants provide the protection for the back teeth, or molars. Dental sealants cover the deep grooves in permanent molars so that decay is much less likely to start. Sealants are applied when children get their first molars, age five to seven and when they get their second set of permanent molars around the age of eleven to fourteen.

It sounds like your son and daughter each got the right process to help prevent decay and with continued regular dental visits along with good brushing and care at home, their teeth should be well protected.

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Response by:

Gerald A Ferretti, DDS, MS, MPH Gerald A Ferretti, DDS, MS, MPH
Professor of Pediatric Dentistry
School of Dental Medicine
Case Western Reserve University