A dental sealant is a thin plastic film painted on the chewing surfaces of teeth to prevent cavities. While brushing and flossing help to remove food particles and plaque from smooth surfaces of teeth, toothbrush bristles often can’t reach into the teeth’s depressions and grooves. Sealants protect those areas and prevent food and bacteria from getting in.
Studies have proven that properly applied sealants are 100% effective in protecting the tooth surfaces from cavities. As long as the sealant remains intact, small food particles and bacteria that cause cavities cannot penetrate through or around a sealant. Sealant protection is reduced or lost when part or all of the bond between the tooth and sealant is broken. However, clinical studies have shown that teeth that have lost sealants are no more susceptible to tooth decay than teeth that were never sealed.
How are sealants applied? In our office, the procedure for sealants is as follows:
First we check the teeth visually and with a Diagnodent (laser light) to make sure there is not any decay. The tooth is cleaned, and a solution is applied to the tooth to roughen the chewing surface and help the sealant stick. The tooth is then rinsed and dried, and the sealant solution is applied and cured to the tooth with a special light to help it harden.
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. The risk of decay decreases significantly after sealant application. During your regular dental visits, your dentist will check the condition of the sealants and reapply them when necessary.
When children’s permanent teeth are newly erupted, they can receive the greatest benefit by having sealants. The chewing surfaces of a child’s teeth are most susceptible to cavities. Studies show that the majority of all cavities occur in the narrow pits and grooves of a child’s newly erupted teeth because food particles and bacteria cannot be cleaned out. Other patients also can benefit from sealant placement, such as those who have existing pits and grooves susceptible to decay. Research has shown that almost everybody has a 95% chance of eventually experiencing cavities in the pits and grooves of their teeth.
Ask your dentist about getting dental sealants for you or your child’s teeth!