Dental Sealants and Tooth Decay

Dental sealant is a thin, plastic coating painted on the chewing surfaces of back teeth, the premolars and molars. The purpose of coating teeth with sealant is to avoid tooth decay. The sealant bonds into the depressions and grooves of the teeth and forms a hard shield that keeps food and bacteria from getting into the tiny grooves in the teeth and causing decay.

Using good technique of brushing and flossing can remove food particles and plaque from smooth surfaces of teeth. However, only brushing cannot always remove the food and plaque from all the niches and fissures of the back teeth. Sealants protect these vulnerable areas from tooth decay by “sealing out” plaque and food.

Need of Sealant

The most important reason for getting sealants is to avoid tooth decay. Fluoride in toothpaste and in drinking water protects the smooth surfaces of teeth but back teeth need extra protection. Sealants cover the chewing surfaces of the back teeth and keep out germs and food. Having sealants put on teeth before they decay will also save time and money in the long run by avoiding fillings, crowns, or caps used to fix decayed teeth.

Teeth Selection

Sealants are only applied to the back teeth, the molars and premolars. These are the teeth that have pits (small hollows) and fissures (grooves) on their biting surfaces. Dentist will tell you which teeth should be sealed after examining teeth and the fissures on them. Some teeth naturally have deep grooves which will need to be sealed; others have shallow ones which will not need sealing.

Dental Sealant Procedure

First of all, the tooth surface is thoroughly cleaned with a paste and rotating. Next the tooth is washed with water and dried. Then an acidic solution is placed on the fissured area of the tooth’s chewing surface for a number of seconds before being rinsed off. This creates small microscopic areas and a fine rougher surface than the surrounding tooth enamel. The rough surface and microscopic areas enable the dental sealant to attach to the tooth. After the tooth is dried again, the liquid dental sealant is placed on the tooth and hardened. Dental sealants are hardened by using a light that hardens the dental sealant, or sometimes by using a two-component dental sealant that sets without using a light. Once the dental sealant has hardened it becomes a hard plastic coating, and you can chew on the tooth again.

Sealant Life Time

Sealants usually last for many years, but your dentist will want to check them regularly to make sure that the seal is still intact. They can wear over time, and sometimes need to add or replace some sealant to be sure that no decay can start underneath it.