What are dental sealants?
Dental sealants are a thin plastic resin that is applied to the pits and fissures on the chewing surfaces of molar teeth to protect them from tooth decay. Most tooth decay in children and teens occurs on these surfaces, because even a single toothbrush bristle is too large to reach inside the fissures. Sealants protect the chewing surfaces from tooth decay by keeping bacteria and food particles out of these pits and fissures.
Which teeth are suitable for sealants?
Permanent molars are the most likely to benefit from sealants. The first molars usually come into the mouth when a child is about 6 years old. Second molars appear at about age 12. It is best if the sealant is applied soon after the teeth have erupted, before they have a chance to decay. But adults can benefit from sealants as well, and this can be determined by evaluating the risk for pit and fissure decay which continues throughout adulthood.
How are sealants applied?
Applying sealants does not require removing tooth structure. The process is short and easy. After the tooth is cleaned, a gel is placed on the chewing surface for a few seconds to condition the tooth. The tooth is then washed off and dried. Then the sealant is applied to the tooth and hardened with a curing light.
Are sealants visible?
Sealants can only be seen up close. Sealants can be clear, white, or slightly tinted, and usually are not seen when a child talks or smiles.
How long will sealants last?
As long as sealants remain intact, the tooth will be protected. Sealants should be checked at your regular dental appointment and can be reapplied if they are no longer in place.
Why is sealing a tooth better than waiting for decay and filling the cavity?
Prevention is better than treatment. Decay damages teeth permanently, and sealants can protect them from decay. Sealants can save time, money, and the inconvenience of having a filling placed.