A dental sealant is an acrylic-like material that helps shield out decay-causing bacteria from the chewing surfaces of back teeth. We base our diagnosis and recommendation for dental sealants on the patient's susceptibility to tooth decay and how the teeth were shaped when they originally formed below the gum. Though there is no specific age at which sealants are indicated, often we will recommend that the best time to apply them is when the six-year molars (the first permanent back teeth) appear.
How Do Sealants Help Prevent Decay?
Sealant material forms a protective barrier by bonding to tooth surfaces and covering natural depressions and grooves (called pits and fissures) in the teeth. More than 75 percent of dental decay begins in the pit and fissure areas of the back teeth. Combined with proper home care and regular dental visits, sealants are extremely effective in preventing tooth decay.
Are Sealants Suitable For All Teeth?
Sealants are applied only to pit and fissure areas of specific teeth. Unfortunately, they cannot be applied to the surfaces in between teeth, where daily flossing is recommended to prevent decay.
Though sealants are most often applied to children's teeth, many adults are now seeking the preventive benefits of pit and fissure sealants as well.
How Are Sealants Applied?
In this painless procedure, a solution is applied to the chewing surface of the tooth to condition the enamel and help it bond more effectively to the sealant material. The tooth is thoroughly washed and dried. Then the sealant material is applied and allowed to harden, sometimes using ultraviolet light. The procedure takes only a few minutes.
How Long Do Sealants Last?
Depending on your chewing pattern, the sealant effect can last many years. Even though sealant material is durable, at subsequent dental appointments we make sure the sealant material is intact. Occasionally, we might need to replace or add a new layer of sealant material to keep the protective barrier strong and effective.
Now That Your Teeth Have Been Sealed
Chewing on ice cubes, hard candy or very sticky foods should be avoided as much as possible.
Sealants Versus Fluoride
Sealants and fluoride are materials designed to preserve and prolong the life of your teeth by preventing dental decay. Sealants are applied topically to certain areas of individual teeth and are a visible sign that the tooth is being protected. Fluoride, on the other hand, may be used effectively from the prenatal stages through the adolescent period, when children are most prone to cavities. Once absorbed and retained in tooth enamel, fluoride stays on the teeth permanently, though invisibly. Unlike sealants, fluoride is supplied in a variety of forms, including commercially prepared mouth rinses, foams, gels, drinking water and many toothpastes.