What are Dental Sealants?
Dental sealants are plastic coatings that are usually placed on the chewing (occlusal) surface of the permanent back teeth, the molars and premolars, to help protect them from decay.
Why are Dental Sealants Placed on Teeth?
The chewing surfaces of the molar and premolar teeth have grooves or fissures that make them vulnerable to decay. These fissures can be deep, are difficult to clean, and can be narrower than even a single bristle of a toothbrush. Plaque accumulates in these areas, and the acid from bacteria in the plaque attacks the enamel and cavities can develop. Fluoride helps prevent decay and helps protect all the surfaces of the teeth. Dental sealants provide extra protection for the grooved and pitted areas by providing a smooth surface covering over the fissured area.
When are Dental Sealants Placed?
The first dental sealant to be placed is usually on the fissure of the first permanent molar tooth, once the chewing surface of the tooth has erupted completely beyond the gum. This tooth grows in behind the baby teeth. If the chewing (occlusal) surface of these teeth are sealed, the dental sealant will help protect the tooth. Except for the wisdom teeth, which come through much later, the molars and premolars continue to erupt until eleven-thirteen years of age and the chewing surfaces of these teeth can be sealed after they have erupted beyond the gum.
Can Dental Sealants Be Placed on the Teeth of Adults?
Yes. While less common, dental sealants are sometimes placed in adults at risk for caries, on deep grooves and fissures that do not already have fillings or dental sealants.
What Do Dental Sealants Look Like?
Dental sealants can be clear, white or have a slight tint depending upon the dental sealant used.
How Long Does a Dental Sealant Last?
Dental sealants have been used and have been proven to be effective since the 1970s. Many studies have shown that they are effective in helping to prevent decay on chewing (occlusal) surfaces. Dental sealants can last many years. If necessary, it is also possible to place a new dental sealant on the tooth.