Dental sealant is a thin, plastic coating painted on the chewing surfaces of teeth – usually the back teeth to prevent tooth decay. The sealant quickly bonds into the depressions and grooves of the teeth, forming a protective shield over the enamel of each tooth. The reasoning behind sealants is that the chewing surfaces of our molars have deep fissures and cracks in them which oral hygiene isn’t always able to get down deep enough into to clean out. Sealants supposedly protect these vulnerable areas from tooth decay by ‘sealing out’ plaque and food.
If your child has deep pits and grooves on their back teeth (molars), your dentist may recommend sealing your child’s teeth. Sealants are thin protective coatings painted on the chewing surfaces of the molars to prevent tooth decay. Even if your child has excellent oral hygiene habits, it is not always easy to clean the deep grooves on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth. Food and germs can get stuck in the grooves where the toothbrush bristles won’t be able to reach. This may lead to a cavity on the chewing surface of the tooth. Sealants are generally recommended for first and second permanent molars. The first permanent molars typically come in around age six and are referred to as “six-year molars.” The second permanent molars come in around age twelve and are referred to as “twelve-year molars.” Sealants are not routinely applied to baby teeth; however, your dentist may recommend sealing a baby molar that has very deep grooves and is at risk for tooth decay.
Thorough brushing and flossing helps remove food particles and plaque from the smooth surfaces of teeth, but toothbrushes can’t reach all the way into the depressions and grooves to extract all food and plaque. While fluoride helps prevent decay and helps protect all the surfaces of the teeth, dental sealants add extra protection for the grooved and pitted areas. If your child has the common misfortune of a cavity, it’s probably on the chewing surface of a back tooth. Occasionally, however, someone’s mouth is large enough to accommodate all four wisdom teeth in their proper position. In this case, if the dentist feels these teeth will be a functional part of your child’s dentition, sealants may be a good option to prevent them from decaying.
Expectation after the procedure
Sealants are typically clear, white, or slightly tinted in color and usually are not visible when a child talks or smiles. Your child‘s bite may slightly feel different after placement of sealants based on the material used, and that is normal. The bite will adjust after a few days. It is okay to eat and drink immediately after sealant placement and there are no special precautions. Sealants can last for many years – anywhere between five to ten years. However, they may wear or chip over the years and need touch ups at regular check-up visits.
How Sealants Prevent Decay
The depressions and grooves on children’s back teeth help them chew and grind food. However, these deep crannies can also trap food and debris where it’s difficult to keep clean, making them prime spots for decay to start. With sealants, a dentist applies a thin plastic material to the chewing surfaces of the molars, allowing the enamel to become smooth and protected from this source of bacteria. Any baby or permanent tooth that has deep pits or fissures is at risk for decay, and is therefore a candidate for a dental sealant, according to the AAPD. Many dentists recommend sealing baby molars because these teeth play an important role in holding space for the permanent teeth. Keeping these teeth cavity-free can prevent your child from losing them early.