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Pit and Fissure Sealants in Preventive Dentistry (AGD 250)

Presenter: Ellen Nuenfeldt, RDH, BS


A pit and fissure sealant is a thin plastic coating of an organic polymer (resin) placed in the pits and fissures of teeth to act as a physical barrier. The sealant bonds to the enamel surface of the tooth so that plaque bacteria cannot colonize within the pits and fissures. The procedure is esthetic, non-invasive and cost-effective for dental patients.

Sealants are an integral part of a complete preventive program and a proven component of oral health care. For decades, dental professionals have trusted sealants to protect against dental caries. Used in combination with patient education, effective personal oral hygiene and fluorides, sealants are a major factor in the prevention of dental caries.

Dentists, dental hygienists, and dental assistants (in certain states) can place dental sealants. Dental assistants are allowed to place sealants in 38 states, most having specific training and supervision requirements. For additional information, refer to the State Board of Dentistry for each individual state.

If a particular state does not allow assistants to apply sealants, the assistant can still play an important role. Assistants must understand the properties of the sealant material, the materials required for set up, and the proper mixing and placement techniques. Patients and parents of pediatric patients need to be informed about the importance and success of sealant application. Since dental assistants can provide patient education in all states, this is an ideal role for the dental assistant.


Ellen Nuenfeldt graduated in 1977 with an Associate Degree in Dental Hygiene from Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, and is also a 1994 graduate of Cardinal Stritch University, obtaining a BS degree in Business Management. She practiced clinical dental hygiene for eleven years before making a career transition in 1988 to 3M ESPE; however she has always maintained a clinical dental hygiene connection by practicing one evening per week. During the past 20 years with 3M ESPE, she has been involved in various functions within the company, including customer service, technical service, sales, marketing and professional relations. She has authored several articles on professional tooth whiting and sealants that have been published in various dental hygiene journals. She also presents educational programs on preventive dentistry topics to study clubs, component meetings, etc. Ellen serves on several advisory boards including the ADHA Industry Advisory Board, Dimensions of Dental Hygiene Industry Board, and the Century Community College Dental Hygiene Advisory committee. She has been a member of ADHA since graduation, and is active in her local MDHA component. In 2003, Ellen was recognized with the Outstanding Dental Hygienist Service award from the Minnesota Dental Hygiene Association.


At the completion of this course, the dental professional should be able to:

• Explain the purpose of pit and fissure sealants.
• Determine which patients are candidates for sealants.
• Describe the current materials that are available.
• Explain the clinical indications and contraindications for sealant application.
• Assemble the appropriate armamentarium for the placement of sealants.
• Demonstrate proper sealant application techniques.
• Demonstrate an understanding of the maintenance of sealants.


The ADAA has an obligation to disseminate knowledge in the field of dentistry.  Sponsorship of a continuing education program by the ADAA does not necessarily imply endorsement of a particular philosophy, product or technique.

The ADAA cautions participants taking this course on the hazards of using limited knowledge when integrating new techniques into their practices.

Credits earned upon completion of the course may be used to meet DANB’s Recertification Requirements.


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