Sealants are a highly effective preventive measure in the fight against tooth decay. They are particularly useful for protecting the chewing surfaces of molars and premolars, which are filled with natural pits and grooves that can trap food particles and bacteria. These deep pits and grooves are often difficult to clean properly with a toothbrush, making them prone to decay.

Despite all teeth being covered with enamel, the bacterial buildup in these hard-to-reach areas can lead to the gradual erosion of enamel and the formation of cavities. Sealants provide a protective barrier, keeping bacteria and food particles out and effectively reducing the risk of tooth decay in these areas.

While anyone can benefit from dental sealants, they are most commonly recommended for children as their permanent teeth start to come in, replacing their primary teeth. Applying sealants early can provide children with added protection during their formative years and help keep their teeth cavity-free. Not only does this ensure that children are less likely to experience toothaches and dental issues, but it also saves families money by preventing the need for costly restorative dental work. This allows children to focus on their education without the distraction of dental problems and appointments.

What Is A Dental Sealant?

Sealants are a straightforward and effective procedure that involves applying a clear or tooth-colored acrylic "coating" onto the surface of teeth. This coating effectively seals the deep grooves and pits where tooth decay is most likely to start. The process is non-invasive, typically does not require anesthetics or drilling, and costs less than conventional fillings, making it an essential preventive tool.

Sealants can provide protection for several years. Research has shown that during the first five years following the application of sealants, the risk of developing a cavity on a sealed tooth is significantly reduced, often by half. However, over time, sealants can wear out, chip, or fall out. To ensure their continued effectiveness, we check the condition of sealants during regular cleaning appointments. If a sealant is found to be damaged or has fallen out, we may recommend reapplying it, and we'll discuss the best course of action with you.

Procedure Overview

The process of placing a sealant is a painless and relatively quick one. Sealants are most commonly applied to molars. Here's an overview of how it's done:

  • Thorough Cleaning: First, the dentist meticulously cleans the biting surface of the tooth, ensuring all grooves and pits are free of debris and bacteria.
  • Surface Preparation: In some cases, the dentist may roughen up the tooth's surface slightly to improve the bond with the sealant material.
  • Rinse and Dry: After cleaning and surface preparation, the tooth is rinsed and thoroughly dried to ensure that the sealant will adhere properly.
  • Sealant Application: The dentist places the sealant material onto the tooth's surface.
  • Curing: Some sealants are self-curing, while others may require a special light to accelerate the hardening process.

The entire process is quick, and once the sealant has fully set, the procedure is complete.

In certain situations where a child is at extreme risk of tooth decay, we may recommend applying a sealant to their primary (baby) teeth. While these teeth are temporary, they play a crucial role in guiding adult teeth into their proper positions. Severe tooth decay leading to the early loss or extraction of primary teeth can result in misalignment as the remaining teeth may shift to fill the gaps. This misalignment can complicate the growth of adult teeth, as they may not have a clear path to grow into. Applying sealants to at-risk primary teeth is a preventive measure that promotes long-term dental health, facilitating a smooth transition to healthy adult teeth.

When sealants are combined with regular dental cleanings, diligent at-home oral hygiene practices, and consistent fluoride usage, they become a valuable tool in maintaining cavity-free and healthy teeth.