A dental sealant is a plastic coating that is placed over the surface of a permanent tooth in the back of the mouth to prevent tooth decay. These teeth, known as molars and premolars, have fissures or grooves on their chewing surfaces where plaque can grow more easily and cause decay. Deep and hard to clean, some of these fissures are narrower than a single bristle of a brush.
When plaque builds up in those areas, the bacteria therein release acid that breaks down the enamel of those teeth, possibly causing cavities. Dental sealants cover those fissures and pits with a smooth surface to give them additional protection.
When Dental Sealants are Used
Dr. Schiffer usually puts the first dental sealant on the fissure of the first permanent molar to erupt from your gums once its chewing surface is visible.
This tooth will come in behind the baby teeth it pushes out. However, sealants won't protect molars if their chewing surfaces are sealed.
Molars and premolars continue erupting until around the age of 11 or 13, but wisdom teeth emerge much later. Once the surface of a molar is finished erupting above the gum, we can cover it with a sealant.
We even have sealants for adults who at an increased risk of tooth decay. These sealants are placed on deep gaps that don't have sealants or fillings yet. However, the sealant procedures we use for children are done more often than this one.
The Dental Sealant Procedure
The first step is for Dr. Schiffer to use a rotating brush and paste to thoroughly clean the tooth's surface. She will then wash the tooth with water and dry it off. The next step is to put an acidic solution onto the grooved area of the tooth's chewing surface for a few seconds before rinsing it off. Doing this makes the tooth's surface finer and rougher than the surrounding enamel, allowing us to put the sealant on the tooth.
After the tooth dries, we put the liquid dental sealant on it and wait for it to harden. We use a special light or a two-component dental sealant to harden the enamel without the light. Once the sealant hardens, it becomes a hard plastic varnish that lets you chew with the tooth once more.
Longevity of Dental Sealants
Since the 1970s, dental experts have used dental sealants successfully. Numerous studies have proven that they effectively prevent the decay of chewing surfaces in molars. If sealants are cared for properly with good dental hygiene, they can last for many years. If needed, we can put new sealants on our patients' teeth.
Take care of your sealants by practicing proper oral hygiene, just like you do for your natural teeth. Brush twice a day in the morning and evening and floss once a day in the evening after you brush. Also remember to eat a balanced diet low in sugar and avoid sugary beverages. These habits will ensure that your sealants last.
For more information about dental sealants, please call us at (470) 222-8983.