Dental sealants are a plastic material applied to the surfaces of teeth to act as a barrier against decay-causing bacteria. They are most commonly used on the back teeth (molars and premolars), where decay is most likely to occur because these teeth have more pits and ridges in which food debris and bacteria might accumulate. Dental sealants are viewed by many dentists as preventative in nature, and thus more effective and proactive than waiting for decay and filling it. Any amount of decay damages a tooth permanently; sealants protect it from becoming damaged in the first place.
Children and teenagers are the most likely candidates for sealants, to prevent decay in molars and premolars as these teeth come in, and protect them during the cavity-prone ages of 6 to 14 years. But adults who have no decay in their molars or premolars can also benefit from dental sealants.
Dental sealants are applied quickly and painlessly. Once applied, the sealant bonds with the teeth, settling into the depressions and grooves in them to provide a protective barrier. Dental sealants last for up to ten years, and can be replaced or repaired easily if they become worn.
What can you expect if you have dental sealants applied to your teeth?
This procedure is fast, and painless. There is often no need even for a local anesthetic. To start, the dentist cleans the teeth professionally. Each of the teeth to be sealed is then surrounded with an absorbent material to dry it, after which a mild acid solution is applied to roughen the surface and provide a better bond. Once again the dentist allows the teeth being treated to dry, and then paints the sealant itself directly onto the enamel of each tooth. Sometimes a bright light is used to allow the sealant to harden more quickly.
Once the sealant is in place, you brush and floss as usual. You should notice no difference in how your teeth look or feel. Regular checkups are still recommended, of course, during which your dentist will check for any signs of chips or wear.
Dental sealants are often recommended as an integral part of a child’s dental care. Combined with regular brushing, wise eating choices, fluoride treatment, and regular visits to the dentist, they can result in a healthy mouth and smile that can last a lifetime.