Dental sealants are a thin material comprised of plastic that is typically applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth to act as a barrier and prevent decay by forming a protective layer over the enamel of each tooth. The sealants are often place on the premolars and molars as they are the teeth most prone to decay. Sealants work by protecting the areas of these teeth from decay that can be caused by plaque and food particles that target a tooth’s depressions and grooves.
While thorough brushing twice a day and flossing daily can help maintain the health of premolars and molars, it is a common problem that toothbrush bristles are unable to reach into the areas that need the most protection. Applying these protective sealants is a form of preventative dentistry.
Who Is a Candidate for Sealants?
Children and teenagers are at risk for the development of decay in the depressions and grooves of their premolars and permanent molars. It is recommended that children have sealants applied as soon as their teeth come in. This is to protect the teeth during the years that they are prone to cavities, typically between the ages of 6 and 14.
Baby teeth play a major role in maintaining the correct spacing for permanent teeth, therefore, it’s important that these teeth are kept healthy to avoid premature tooth loss. So, in cases involving younger children that have deep depressions and grooves, preventative dentistry may be appropriate.
Also, sealants can be placed in adults that are at risk for dental caries. Although this is less common, adult teeth that are without fillings can have sealants applied to protect their deep grooves and depressions.
The Procedure for Applying Sealants
Undergoing application of a sealant is a process that is simple, painless and quick. Only a few minutes are needed for a general or cosmetic dentist to apply the sealant to each tooth. The application is as follows:
Do Sealants Need to Be Replaced Over Time?
Since the 1970s, sealants have been proven effective in protecting the chewing surface of teeth from decay. A dental sealant can offer protection for up to 10 years. However, at each regular dental visit sealants need to be assessed for wearing or chipping. If it is necessary, a new sealant can be applied to a tooth at any time.