Dental sealants are a coating applied to the deep grooves on the biting surfaces of teeth to prevent tooth decay. They have been an effective preventive measure for over forty years.
Sealants work by filling-in the deep grooves to prevent plaque bacteria from forming in these spaces and to prevent food from reaching any remaining bacteria to cause decay. Sealants also have the benefit of making the tooth surfaces easier to keep clean.
Sealants can either be made of an adhesive resin or glass ionomer cement. The use of glass ionomer as a sealant material has the benefit of leaching fluoride and strengthening the surrounding tooth structure, while adhesive resin fissure sealants are more wear resistant. Both materials and techniques are beneficial to sealing the tooth surface and preventing decay.
The pits and grooves on the biting surfaces of teeth are especially prone to dental decay. These areas are difficult to keep clean because newly emerged teeth in children are often covered partially by gum for long periods. Bristles of a toothbrush can’t reach the depths of these crevices to remove the plaque and food deposits .Fluoride from tooth paste can’t reach the depths of the crevices to strengthen the enamel. These surfaces are particularly susceptible to decay in the early years following the emergence of a tooth into the oral cavity. For this reason dental sealants are generally placed in children’s teeth.
Research has shown that sealants placed over early decayed lesions will slow the progress of decay and prevent cavity formation.
What’s involved in placement of a dental sealant?
The application for dental sealants takes only a short time. Generally, no drilling is required, although occasionally, a very small amount of preparation with the drill is required. Because the procedure does not cause pain, no injections are required.
The teeth are first cleaned to remove all traces of plaque. After which, the tooth is washed and dried and the surface is then prepared to receive the sealant. Preparation of the tooth surface involves application of gel, followed by washing and drying. This improves the bond of the sealant to the tooth. The sealant is then applied to the surface of the tooth and allowed to flow through all the grooves creating a smooth surface. Occasionally, a small adjustment is required to make the bite comfortable.