Dental sealants do exactly what the name implies. They seal teeth, creating a barrier to help prevent decay. These specially formulated products are plastic based and biocompatible. Usually they are applied to the occlusional (chewing) surfaces of molars and pre-molars.
Good oral hygiene practices keep plaque and food particles removed from your teeth regularly. However, the bristles of a toothbrush cannot reach into the pits and fissures (grooves and depressions) in teeth. Therefore, these areas are especially vulnerable to the acid and bacteria in plaque.
The challenges of learning to brush properly as well as the small space in a child's mouth make kids especially susceptible to this type of decay. Sealants are most commonly used for children and teens, applied soon after the adult teeth erupt, but they can be used for adults as well.
The effectiveness of this procedure has been researched for several decades. According to many studies, the application of these products before a child reaches the age of six can reduce the imminent risk of cavities by 80 percent. Four years after treatment, the risk of cavities is 60 percent lower than in children who never had their teeth sealed. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), sealants are recommended to save money, time, and discomfort associated with decay.
The application of sealants is a simple, fast procedure. The liquid formula is painted directly on the tooth surface and hardened. It coats the vulnerable pits and fissures on the surfaces of back teeth. With a layer of sealant in place, plaque cannot contact the enamel, thus protecting the tooth from decay. This is a very durable material, and may remain intact for many years under optimal circumstances. During your regular checkup, your dentist will inspect the sealant, and reapply if it is beginning to fail.
Sealants do not provide fluoride, nor do they take the place of it. They also do not decrease the need for good oral hygiene. This procedure is one step in an effective dental health routine including adequate fluoride, healthy eating, regular brushing, flossing, and dental visits.