Dental sealants, which are also known as ‘fissure sealants’ are simply a protective plastic coating applied in liquid form to the back teeth, which are the most susceptible to decay. While shallow grooves and fissures do not need sealing, the small ones do, because they cannot be adequately cleaned with a toothbrush, the bristles of which are too large to reach into these areas. The sealant bonds into the tiniest grooves in the molars then dries and forms a hard protective shield over the enamel of each tooth. This keeps food out of these grooves, thus preventing the buildup of bacteria which avoids decay. The smooth surface formed by the sealant is also easily cleaned.
Once a tooth has developed a cavity; it is considerably more difficult and more expensive to repair the damage. Dental sealants are considered both a safe and painless way to protect your teeth from developing decay and cavities and is a minimal intervention approach to dental care.
Who Should Get Dental Sealants?
Children and teenagers are usually good candidates for sealants because fissure decay often begins early in life. Having a sealant applied to your child’s teeth just as soon as their permanent set comes in, protects them during some very cavity prone years. However, adults who do not have fillings or decay can benefit from sealants as well. This is especially true in the case of people who are at a higher risk for caries. This includes people who have
- Early signs or a history of dental caries
- Deficient or too thin enamel on their teeth
- Deep pits and/or fissures on their molars
- A diet high in refined sugar or carbohydrates
- Poor oral hygiene and plaque control
- Orthodontics appliances
Dental sealants are not used on people who are at a much lower risk for tooth decay, including individuals who have exceptional oral hygiene and a balanced diet, teeth with shallow pits and grooves that can be well cleaned with a toothbrush, or previously restored pits and fissures.
How Are Dental Sealants Applied?
It only takes a few minutes for us to apply a sealant to each tooth, which is a simple and painless process. The teeth that are to be sealed are thoroughly cleaned and dried. An acid solution is then applied to the surface of each tooth to create a rough surface which helps the sealant bond to the tooth. After rinsing and re-drying the tooth, the sealant is painted onto each tooth, and an ultraviolet light used to ‘cure’ and harden the sealant.
How Long Do Sealants Last?
Dental sealants do wear down in time but, depending on the material used, can last from anywhere from five to ten years. However, they do have to be regularly checked (at least on an annual basis) for any signs of chipping or wear. If either has occurred, we will probably add or replace some of the sealant in order to ensure that your teeth are still being protected from decay.
If you subscribe to the idea that, as Benjamin Franklin once said… "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure", then do make an appointment with us and protect your teeth for many years to come.