The first step in maintaining a healthy mouth is preventing tooth decay, and sealants can offer major protection against cavities. Your teeth are covered with a sticky film of bacteria, called plaque. When you do not clean your teeth after eating, plaque bacteria use sugar and starch in food as a source of energy. The bacteria convert the sugar or starch into harmful acids that attack tooth enamel for as long as twenty minutes or more. Repeated attacks may cause the enamel to break down, resulting in cavities. A dental sealant is an acrylic-like material that helps shield out decay-causing bacteria from the chewing surfaces of back teeth. We base our diagnosis and recommendation for dental sealants on the patient’s susceptibility to tooth decay and how the teeth were shaped when they originally formed below the gum. Though there is no specific age at which sealants are indicated, often we will recommend that the best time to apply them is when the six-year molars (the first permanent back teeth) appear.
SEALANTS – FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
How does a sealant help prevent decay?
A sealant is a plastic material that is usually applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth — premolars and molars. This plastic resin bonds into the depressions and grooves (pits and fissures) of the chewing surfaces of back teeth. The sealant acts as a barrier, protecting enamel from plaque and acids. More than 75 percent of dental decay begins in the pit and fissure areas of the back teeth. Combined with proper home care and regular dental visits, sealants are extremely effective in preventing tooth decay.
Why are Sealants Necessary?
When the teeth are developing, depressions and grooves form in the chewing surfaces of the enamel. These are called pits and fissures. They are impossible to keep clean because the bristles of a toothbrush cannot reach into them. Thorough brushing and flossing help remove food particles and plaque only from smooth surfaces of teeth. Therefore, pits and fissures are snug places for plaque and bits of food to hide. By forming a thin covering over the pits and fissures, sealants keep out plaque and food, and thus decrease the risk of decay.
Even a single toothbrush bristle cannot reach all the way into the depressions and groves to extract food particles, bacteria, and plaque
The sealant material flows to the depth of the groove, sealing out decay causing bacteria
Is sealant application a complicated procedure?
Sealants are easy for your dentist to apply, and it takes only a few minutes to seal each tooth. The teeth that will be sealed are cleaned. Then the chewing surfaces are roughened with an acid solution to help the sealant adhere to the tooth. The sealant is then ‘painted’ onto the tooth enamel, where it bonds directly to the tooth and hardens. Sometimes a special curing light is used to help the sealant harden.
Do Sealants Need to be Reapplied?
When the sealant is applied, finger like strands penetrate the pits and fissures of the tooth enamel. Although the sealant cannot be seen with the naked eye, the protective effect of these strands continues. As long as the sealant remains intact, the tooth surface will be protected from decay. Sealants hold up well under the force of normal chewing and usually last several years before a reapplication is needed. As a result, it may be several years before another application of sealant is needed. Reapplication of the sealant will continue the protection against decay and my save the time and expense of having a tooth restored. DR. Khosla checks sealants during regular dental visits to determine if reapplication is necessary.
Sealants are just for kids, right?
The likelihood of developing pit and fissure decay begins early in life, so children and teenagers are obvious candidates. But adults can benefit from sealants as well.