Dental sealants act as a barrier, protecting the teeth against decay-causing bacteria. The sealants are usually applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth (premolars and molars) where decay occurs most often. A sealant is a plastic material that is usually applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth-premolars and molars. This plastic resin bonds into the depressions and grooves (pits and fissures) of the chewing surfaces of back teeth. The sealant acts as a barrier, protecting enamel from plaque and acids.
Thorough brushing and flossing help remove food particles and plaque from smooth surfaces of teeth. But toothbrush bristles cannot reach all the way into the depressions and grooves to extract food and plaque. Sealants protect these vulnerable areas by “sealing out” plaque and food.
Should dental sealants always be placed on teeth? Not necessarily. After an examination, your dentist can report to you what they feel is indicated for you or for your child. The shape of the grooves (pits and fissures) in some people’s teeth place them more at risk for developing decay than others. Person’s whose grooves are deep and narrow will have a greater need for sealants than people whose grooves are naturally shallow and rounded.
Sealants are easy for your dentist to apply, and it takes only a few minutes to seal each tooth. The teeth that will be sealed are cleaned. Then the chewing surfaces are roughened with an acid solution to help the sealant adhere to the tooth. The sealant is then ‘painted’ onto the tooth enamel, where it bonds directly to the tooth and hardens. Sometimes a special curing light is used to help the sealant harden.
As long as the sealant remains intact, the tooth surface will be protected from decay. Sealants usually need reapplication every five to 10 years. During your regular dental visits, your dentist will check the condition of the sealants and reapply them when necessary.