The application of systemic or topical fluoride since the early 1970’s has lowered the incidence of tooth decay on the smooth surfaces of the teeth. However, about 90% of the decay found in children’s teeth occurs in tooth surfaces with pits and fissures. To solve this problem, dental sealants were developed to act as a physical barrier so that cavity-causing bacteria cannot invade the pits and fissures on the chewing surfaces of back [posterior] teeth.
A sealant is a plastic resin material that is usually applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth—premolars and molars. This material is bonded into the depressions and grooves (pits and fissures) of the chewing surfaces and acts as a barrier, protecting enamel from attack by plaque and/or acids.
Dental sealants are usually professionally applied. The dentist, hygieniest or assistant cleans and dries the teeth to be treated; then paints a thin layer of liquid plastic material on the pits and fissures of the tooth. A blue spectrum natural light is shined on the applied material for a few seconds to cure the plastic. Some brands of sealants cure chemically.
After curing, the plastic becomes a hard, thin layer covering the treated portions of the tooth. Despite the incredible pressures placed on teeth during chewing each day, dental sealants often remain effective for five years or longer, although sealants do wear naturally and should be checked at regular intervals. If sealants wear or become damaged, they can be repaired or replaced simply by applying new sealant material to the worn or damaged portions.
Children should receive sealants shortly after the eruption of their first permanent molars, around age 6 and again at age 12 when their second molars appear.
During the child’s regular dental visits, we will check the condition of the sealants and reapply them when necessary.