Sealants, also known as dental sealants, are plastic materials that are placed on the occlusal or chewing surface of molars and premolars to help protect them against acids and bacteria that cause tooth decay. While thorough flossing and brushing can help remove plaque and food particles from the smoother surfaces of teeth, toothbrushes cannot reach all the way into teeth grooves and depressions to extract all plaque and food particles. And while fluoride protects the surfaces of the teeth, and helps prevent against decay, dental sealants help by adding an extra layer of protection to the pitted and grooved areas of teeth.
Why is it important to have a dental sealant placed on teeth?
Since the chewing surfaces of the molars and premolars have grooves, they are generally more vulnerable to decay. Since these grooves can sometimes be quite deep and narrow, even for a single toothbrush bristle to penetrate, it can be rather difficult to clean them. As a result, plaque and bacteria may accumulate in the grooves leading to the development of cavities which attack the enamel. While fluoride may help prevent against decay, a dental sealant may be needed to create a smooth surface covering over these grooved areas.
Dr. Vincent is a specialist in Syracuse, NY area when it comes to dental sealants and you can consult him in case you have any questions before undergoing the procedure.
When are sealants placed?
Dental sealants are normally applied in the grooves of permanent molar teeth once the teeth’s chewing surface have completely grown out from the gum. These are the teeth that grow in behind the baby teeth. Once applied, the sealant helps protect the teeth. Except for wisdom teeth, which usually appear much later in time, molars and premolars tend to erupt until 11 to 13 years of age. Wisdom teeth can only be sealed after they’ve completely erupted.
Can dental sealants be placed on the teeth of adults?
Yes, they can. However, this is something that does not happen often. Dental sealants can be placed on the teeth of adults who are at a risk of caries on deep fissures and grooves that are not already have sealed or filled.
How is a dental sealant placed?
For a dental sealant to be applied, the tooth surface is, first of all, thoroughly cleaned using a rotating brush and some paste by a dentist. Once cleaned, the tooth or teeth being worked on are then washed using water before being dried. This is then followed by the application of an acidic solution on the grooved area for a couple of seconds before it’s rinsed off. This helps as it creates small microscopic areas and a surface that is finer and rougher than the surrounding enamel. These microscopic rough areas make it easier for the dental sealant to attach itself to the tooth/teeth being worked on. The teeth are then dried again before the liquid sealant is applied and hardened. The sealant is hardened by using a special light or by applying a two-component sealant that can set without the need of the light. Once it has hardened, the sealant becomes a hard plastic coating that you can chew on.
How long do dental sealants last?
This sealant can last for many years. However, if by any chance the coating diminishes or gets damaged, it is possible to have a new sealant applied on the tooth.
It is important to note that dental sealants only protect the surfaces they have been applied and not the entire tooth. As such, it is advised that you continue to use fluoride to help protect the rest of your tooth/teeth and all other teeth surfaces from cavities and decay.