With proper oral care and regular dental visits, your adult teeth can last a lifetime. However, you may need dental treatments along the way to protect your oral health and ensure your teeth function for as long as possible. Dental sealants are a common preventive treatment often applied when tooth decay appears likely in childhood.
A dental sealant comprises a thin coating of plastic applied to the chewing surfaces of your teeth, primarily back molars and premolars. Dental sealants are typically clear or white and are not visible on your teeth when talking or eating. They are meant to prevent tooth decay by protecting the teeth from harmful bacteria and acid that can damage the enamel. Basically, a dental sealant creates a shell that safeguards the enamel surrounding the tooth.
Since molars and premolars are located deep inside the mouth, they are often difficult to clean. It can be difficult to reach your back teeth with a toothbrush or floss, especially for children. These teeth are also tightly packed, making it hard for toothbrush bristles to penetrate and remove food debris. As a result, molars and premolars are a common target for acid and bacteria attacks. That’s why dental sealants are applied on molars and premolars to prevent bacteria from multiplying and eventually eating through the enamel.
Sealants are ideal for anybody with permanent molars and premolars. Typically, the back teeth are susceptible to decay and developing cavities around the deep depressions and grooves. Sealants are often recommended for kids and teenagers, but adults who grow up free of dental problems affecting their molars and premolars could also benefit from sealants.
If your dentist discovers that your child’s teeth have deep depressions and grooves, they may recommend dental sealants as a preventive measure. Children should have sealants as soon as their premolars and permanent molars emerge, typically around the age of six or seven. In some rare cases, younger kids may require dental sealants as well.
Many people wonder whether applying dental sealants is painful. The process is generally painless and quite simple. It only takes a few minutes to complete. Your dentist begins by thoroughly cleaning the surface of the teeth using a rotating brush and fluoride. The cleaning process is meant to wipe out all the debris stuck between teeth.
The next step involves rinsing the teeth off with clean water to eliminate the fallen debris. Your dentist then dries off the teeth, places an acidic solution on the tooth’s surface for a few seconds, and finally rinses it off. This solution roughens up the chewing surface to create a perfect bonding surface for the dental sealant.
Once the tooth is completely dry, the sealant is applied in liquid form and left to solidify. At times, dentists use a special light to quicken the hardening process. Upon hardening, the sealant forms a strong but thin plastic coating that wraps the targeted tooth independently. Afterward, you will continue chewing with the tooth as usual.
Dental sealants have been used successfully since the 1970s and have continually improved thanks to research and advanced technology. You can expect your dental sealant to last up to ten years with maximum effectiveness. However, you’ll need to maintain routine dental appointments so your dentist can check for chips and wear. You should continue to brush and floss your teeth normally, even after receiving dental sealants. Consult with your dentist to see if you or your child are good candidates for dental sealants.