Tooth sealant is a thin plastic coating that is applied to the chewing surface and any deep grooves (called pits and fissures) of teeth, primarily of molars and premolars. Greater than 75% of dental decay begins in these deep grooves. Teeth that have these conditions are difficult to clean making them especially susceptible to decay. In some cases, a sealant may also be recommended for a tooth with a small crack. Sealing a tooth protects it by sealing those deep grooves, leaving the surface smooth and easy to clean.
Sealants can last for many years, protecting teeth from decay, but they should still be checked during regular dental visits for wear and chipping.
When and why to choose sealants:
• Baby teeth – Sealant is occasionally recommended for “baby teeth” that have deep grooves or depressions, especially if the child is cavity prone.
• Children and teenagers – Sealant may be recommended at any time throughout the more cavity prone years of ages 6-16, especially when the six year molars (the first permanent “back” teeth) appear.
• Adults – Sealants may be recommended for any tooth surfaces that do not have decay, but have deep depressions or grooves.
What does sealant placement entail?
The process of applying sealants is simple, and can be done by your dentist or dental hygienist in as little as two or three minutes per tooth.
Teeth that are to be sealed will first be thoroughly cleaned, then surrounded with cotton to keep the area dry and to catch any errant sealant. A special solution is first applied to the enamel surface to facilitate the bonding of sealant to the teeth. The teeth will then be rinsed and dried. Finally, the sealant material is carefully painted onto the enamel surface, covering the depressions and deep grooves. The sealant material will either harden naturally or will be hardened with a special curing light, depending on which type of sealant is used.
A healthy diet, proper home care, and regular dental visits will aid in extending the life of your tooth sealants.