If your child is particularly cavity-prone, our dentist may recommend placing dental sealants over his or her teeth. The development of dental sealants is one of the greatest advances in the prevention of cavities and tooth decay. While fluoride has greatly reduced the number of cavities, it does little to protect the grooves of the teeth. Sealants, in conjunction with topical and systemic fluoride treatments, can provide maximum protection against tooth decay. Sealants prevent bacteria and food debris from entering the pit and fissures (grooves) of the teeth.
What are Sealants?
Sealants are a white plastic material that is applied directly to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth. Sealants are only applied after the tooth is fully erupted and is usually applied to permanent teeth.
How Do They Work?
Saliva is an effective method for keeping the surfaces of the teeth clean between brushing. It acts as a natural mouthwash and has bacteria-fighting enzymes to eliminate potentially harmful microorganisms. However, saliva can’t reach into the deep pits and fissures of the teeth. In addition, because the teeth are deeply grooved, keeping them properly clean can be difficult. Sealants help to protect these indentations, dramatically reducing the amount of bacteria and food debris on the teeth.
Typically, our dentist will apply a sealant to the six and twelve year old molars, since these are particularly susceptible to tooth decay and cavities. He/She may also treat your child’s permanent premolars (bicuspids) and sometimes, primary molars. Any tooth with grooves can benefit from sealants.
How Are They Applied?
Sealant application is typically quick, easy, and comfortable! Before the sealant is placed, we will thoroughly clean and then dry your tooth. A team member will then paint the sealant material onto the grooves of the tooth and harden it with a special light.
Sealants are thin and do not typically interfere with eating, chewing, talking, playing a musical instrument, or smiling. They are designed to last for years and can be reapplied if they are found to be rough or cracked. You should continue to practice preventive dental care in the form of brushing, flossing, and rinsing with mouthwash at home.
After Sealant Placement, Remember…
- Eating and drinking can continue as usual.
- Brushing at least twice per day and flossing at least once per day should continue.
- Your child may experience an uneven bite for a short time, but this should disappear within a few days.
- Small pieces of the sealant material may come loose the day of placement. This is normal and will go away within a few days.
- Your child should avoid foods like Jolly Ranchers, Now n’ Laters, caramels, fruit snacks, gummy bears, and ice since these may crack or dislodge the sealant.