What are dental sealants?
Dental sealants are thin, plastic coatings that seal over the narrow grooves found on the chewing surfaces of back teeth (molars and premolars).
When placed perfectly on these deep pits, sealants can prevent a significant amount of tooth decay (cavities) by protecting sensitive tooth surfaces from acid that causes cavities.
Sealants are not generally placed on baby teeth but on the tooth enamel of permanent teeth (“adult” teeth).
Dental sealants function much like sealing cracks in a driveway or on the sidewalk. The grooves in the chewing surfaces of back teeth are sealed so that food particles and bacteria will not settle within the fissures, causing cavities.
Application of sealants may be appropriate for some pediatric dental patients to prevent tooth decay in kids. However, they are not a substitute for brushing, flossing, and a healthy diet.
Dental sealants can be placed by your dentist, dental hygienist, or other dental professional. Some states dental boards have laws governing by whom, how, and in what circumstances dental sealants can be placed.
While I will recommend sealants at my office, I do so with very strict criteria, application techniques, and only the cleanest materials. So, are dental sealants worth it for your children’s dental health?
How are sealants applied to teeth?
Sealant placement is a relatively easy process.
- First, the teeth are cleaned of plaque or food particles and then thoroughly examined for tooth decay.
- Each tooth is dried and surrounded by absorbent material so it remains dry throughout the procedure.
- The tooth is cleaned with a mild etchant (acid etch solution) to roughen the tooth surface and encourage bonding of the sealant material.
- The etchant is rinsed and the teeth are dried again.
- Depending on your material of choice, a thin layer of bonding agent may be used prior to the placement of the very viscous sealant material.
- The sealant is painted directly onto the chewing surface of each tooth.
- Finally, a curing light may be used to harden the dental sealant.
The teeth must be nicely isolated so no contaminants, such as saliva, affect the bond. Ozone gas can be applied to ensure bacteria on or around the tooth is reduced or eliminated prior to sealing.
If a small cavity is detected, air abrasion or a dental laser or drill can be used to clean out the infection prior to any material placement.