What are sealants?
Dental sealants are thin plastic coatings that are applied to the grooves on the chewing surfaces of the teeth to protect them from tooth decay. Most tooth decay occurs on these surfaces and it is commonly seen in children. Sealants protect the chewing surfaces from tooth decay by keeping bacteria and tiny food particles out of these grooves.
What are the advantages of sealants?
Sealing a tooth is better than waiting for it to decay as decay damages the tooth permanently. Teeth that have anatomical characteristics like pits and fissures (deep grooves) are at a risk of developing decay and should be sealed. Sealants can save time, money and the discomforts associated with dental fillings. Sealants are clear, white or slightly tinted and are not visible while talking or smiling. Sealants are a part of a child's total preventive dental care. They work together with fluorides to prevent tooth decay.
At what age should sealants be applied?
Dental sealants are commonly applied in children whose teeth are erupting as a preventive measure to protect their teeth during those years when they are most likely to experience tooth decay. However, the grooves on adult teeth can also be sealed. The teeth that benefit most from sealants are the permanent molars. The first molars appear when the child is about 6 years old and the second molars appear around the age of 12. It is best if the sealant is applied soon after the teeth have erupted, before they have a chance to decay. Not all teeth require the protection that dental sealants can provide. After an examination your dentist can report to you what they feel is indicated for you or for your child.
How are sealants applied?
The process of applying sealants is short and easy. It does not require drilling or removal of any tooth structure. The tooth is first cleaned and a gel is applied on the surface to be sealed for a few seconds. The gel is then washed off and the tooth is dried .The sealant is then painted on the tooth. The dentist may use visible light to help harden the sealant. This takes about a minute and the sealant forms a protective shield.
How long do sealants last?
Any sealant can remain intact for at least three to five years; however sealants can last much longer. The longevity of sealants can vary. It is common to see sealants that were placed during childhood still intact on the teeth of adults. Sealants can only provide protection when they are fully intact. If a portion of the sealant or the entire sealant has come off you should contact your dentist.