What is a Dental Sealant?
Although brushing and flossing removes food particles and plaque from smooth surfaces of teeth, they don’t always get into all of the nooks and crannies of the back teeth. This build-up can cause plaque, tartar, and tooth decay, especially during adolescence.
Dental sealant is a thin, plastic coating that protects healthy teeth from enamel erosion. Applying sealant creates an invisible barrier on the chewing surface of teeth, “sealing out” the bacteria in your mouth, and avoiding a build-up of plaque and tartar.
Sealant is most often used on the rear molars, which have the deepest grooves and the most potential for plaque accumulation. Although sealant treatment is most common with children to protect growing teeth, adults without any decay, cavities, or fillings in deep-grooved teeth can also receive sealant.
Benefits of Dental Sealants
Adolescents are prone to decay in the depressions and grooves of the premolars and molars as their teeth develop. Applying sealant as soon as these permanent teeth erupt can protect teeth during these cavity-prone years, preventing the tooth decay process and creating the foundation for a lifetime of stable oral health.
In some cases, sealants may be appropriate for baby teeth with deep depressions and grooves. Because baby teeth play an important role in maintaining the correct spacing for permanent teeth, it’s important to keep these teeth healthy, so they’re not lost too early.
Adult teeth can also benefit from sealant. Patients without fillings or a tooth cavity can prevent teeth with deep grooves from ever developing decay.
Dental sealant is extremely easy to care for: simply maintain your comprehensive oral hygiene regimen, brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing regularly.
How Effective are Dental Sealants?
Sealant is a very effective dental treatment. It can reduce the rate of cavity growth by almost 80 percent after the first year of application, and by 60 percent after four years. Sealants can save patients money in the long run, helping them avoid expensive and invasive dental care treatments like fillings or crowns.
Sealants can protect teeth from decay for up to 10 years, but they should be checked for wear or chipping at regular dental appointments. Your dentist can replace sealants as necessary. Studies show that sealants aren’t impacted by regular fluoride treatments, which also increase protection for teeth against cavities and decay.
The Dental Sealant Process
Applying sealant is very simple, and usually only takes a few minutes per tooth.
The tooth is cleaned thoroughly, prepared with a special solution, and then dried. The liquid sealant is then applied directly onto the tooth, and cured with a special UV light. That’s it! Food and plaque will be kept out of the deep pits and fissures in your teeth for years to come.