A dental sealant is a plastic coating that is placed on the occlusal surface of a permanent back tooth (that is, the chewing surface of a molar or premolar) to prevent tooth decay.
These occlusal surfaces have grooves or fissures that make them more susceptible to decay. The grooves are sometimes narrower than one bristle of a toothbrush, making them very difficult to clean. The formation of plaque in those areas is, therefore, easier, and the bacteria in the plaque produce acid that breaks down the enamel, resulting in cavities. By creating a smooth surface over the tooth, dental sealants guard the grooves and pits against decay.
At what Age are Dental Sealants Placed?
We typically place the first sealant on the groove of the patient’s first permanent molar once the occlusal surface of that tooth has finished erupting from the gum. This tooth will come in behind the baby teeth, and the occlusal surfaces of these teeth are sealable once eruption is complete. If we seal the occlusal surfaces of these teeth, the sealant will protect them. Unlike wisdom teeth, which erupt at a later age, molars and premolars keep erupting until the patient is 11 to 13 years old.
In some cases, sealants are placed on adults who have deep grooves or who are at a higher risk for tooth decay. Adults who have fillings can’t receive them. This procedure is less common, however.
[[H2:Are Dental Sealants used on other Teeth?]]]
We mainly use sealants on the surfaces of molars and premolars because these teeth are the ones that most often have deep fissures. Dental sealants are also used as a protective measure on other permanent teeth that have pits or grooves. Some children have molars in the primary dentition (that is, baby teeth) that also have grooves. In such cases, we can apply sealants to those teeth also if necessary.
What is the Procedure for Placing Dental Sealants?
The first step is to clean the occlusal surface of the tooth with a paste and a rotating brush. We will then wash the tooth with water and dry it. The next step is to apply an acidic solution onto the grooved area of the tooth for a few seconds and then rinse it off. This will form small areas (visible via microscope) on the surface, making it finer and rougher than the adjacent enamel. This newly altered surface will allow us to attach the dental sealant to your tooth.
Once the tooth is dry once again, we’ll place the liquid dental sealant on the tooth and let it harden. We harden the sealants using a special light, or we may use a sealant with two components that will harden without a light. Once hardened, the sealant becomes a hard coating of plastic varnish, allowing the patient to chew with the tooth once again.
How long do Dental Sealants last?
Dentists have successfully used dental sealants since the 1970s. Studies have demonstrated their efficacy in preventing tooth decay on occlusal surfaces. Sealants can last for several years, but we can also place new sealants on teeth if necessary.
For more information, please contact our office at (614) 427-0449.