4 ways to clean a tooth before placing a sealant

Starting with a very clean tooth is a vital step when placing dental sealants.  Any stain, plaque, etc. left behind will compromise the bonding of the sealant material to the enamel surface.  Below are 4 cleaning methods I’ve personally used over the years that work well, but nothing beats the micro etcher in my opinion.

Start with a sickle scaler
No matter which of the following methods I use, I always start with a thin sickle scaler to remove any bulk debris from every pit and groove first.


American Eagle BlackJack TT (left).  PDT Montana Jack (right)

American Eagle BlackJack TT (left). PDT Montana Jack (right)


Prophy Angle
I use standard prophy paste or pumice with this method.  It’s important to hit every pit and groove from multiple angles.  Use adequate pressure.  Use the edge of the prophy angle a lot.  This method works pretty well.




Angled Brush
I also use standard prophy paste or pumice with this method.  This is my least favorite method.




Air Polisher
This method works very well.  It’s doesn’t matter what type of powder you use (sodium bicarbonate, calcium carbonate, etc.).

Cheap eBay air polisher (less than $30)

Cheap eBay air polisher (less than $30)


Micro Etcher
This is my favorite method.  The powder (aluminum oxide) is more abrasive and cleans extremely well.  Personally, I just use the more abrasive powder in a cheap eBay air polisher.

Danville micro etcher

Danville micro etcher

Mark Frias, RDH

2 thoughts on “4 ways to clean a tooth before placing a sealant

  1. Good review. It is critical to apply sealants to very clean, receptive enamel. Whether etching or using a self-etch, there is no way that sealants perform very well or for very long if they are applied on top of plaque or calculus or food stuck in the depths of the pits and fissures. (The bond strength of self-etch resin/sealant to enamel is inferior unless you take the time to etch…and all bonding is inferior on ‘dirty’ enamel compared to very clean enamel.)

  2. What I have found is that pumice is unnecessary due to fine particles being left behind. I agree and have used scalers for years. I follow with etch moving it actively into the grooves during the 30 second time the etch should be on the tooth. Don’t trust the 3way syringe and use a drying agent by ultradent. Place sealant and cure for the time indicated. Great post!

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