Dental sealants are resin-based materials that a dentist applies to the chewing surfaces of deciduous, permanent molars and permanent premolars. They act as a barrier to protect the enamel from plaque and acids.
Who needs Dental Sealants?
Although proper brushing and flossing are effective to remove food particles and plaque from smooth surfaces of teeth. However, since a toothbrush bristles cannot access the anatomical depressions and grooves on teeth at the back of the mouth, sealants preserves these vulnerable areas by preventing the buildup of harmful bacteria in these areas.
Molars (deciduous and permanent) and premolars have grooves known as pits & fissures. These are often missed while brushing & are prone to get caries. Sealing these pits and fissures soon after eruption is a good step towards preventive dentistry in high caries risk patients. This happens at 6-13 years of age.
Dental sealants are more commonly placed in children to prevent cavities early in life, however, sealants can benefit adults too.
What is the lifespan of a dental sealant?
According to the CDC dental sealants can prevent 80 % of cavities for up to two years after application & protect against 50 percent of cavities for up to four years. Sealants often last for a few years before they need to be reapplied. During your regular dental visits, Your dentist will check the condition of the sealant and can reapply them if needed.
Why are they placed on teeth?
The first dental sealant is usually placed on the chewing surface of the first permanent molar, once the tooth has completely erupted. The molars and premolars continue to erupt until 11-13 years of age and their chewing surfaces can be sealed after they have erupted beyond the gum level.
Dental sealants are usually placed on the chewing surfaces of molars (deciduous and permanent) and premolar( permanent) because these teeth typically have deep fissures and grooves. Sealants are sometimes also used on other permanent teeth if they have deep grooves or pits (mostly due to structural anomalies)to help protect these surfaces.
In some children, Deciduous molars sometimes have grooves that could benefit from dental sealants. In adults with high caries risk, dental sealants can be placed on premolars & molars. Product options can be clear or have a tooth-color shade.
Fluoride or sealants?
Dental sealants just protect the chewing surfaces (pits and fissures) that they are placed on. Fluoride helps protect all the surfaces of the tooth by aiding in teeth mineralization.
What to Expect during a Procedure of this type?
Placing dental sealants is usually painless and doesn't require any anesthesia or removal of tooth structure.
Tooth preparation – The teeth are polished to remove plaque and food debris from the pit and fissure surfaces. The next step is to isolate and dry the tooth. The tooth surface is then etched for a few seconds, after which the etchant is rinsed off & the tooth is dried.
Product application – With a small brush the sealant material is applied to the tooth surface. A curing light will be used for about 30 seconds to bond the sealant to the tooth surface.
Evaluation – the last step is to evaluate the coverage and check its occlusion. Once the dental sealant has set, it's hardened to a plastic coating, & normal chewing can be continued.