Dental sealants, also known as fissure sealants, are thin, safe plastic coatings applied to pitted or grooved areas on the chewing surfaces of back teeth (premolars and molars) to protect them from tooth decay.
Most decay in children and teens will occur on these surfaces first. Tooth grooves or pits and fissures are very prone to decay because they are quite deep, allow stagnation of bacteria and food particles and are difficult to clean. They can be considerably narrower than a single bristle of a toothbrush. Dental sealants act as a physical barrier to prevent oral plaque and food debris from entering and trapping within the hard to clean grooves, thereby protecting these areas from developing decay.
When should Sealants be placed?
Permanent molars are the teeth most likely to benefit from sealants. First permanent molars usually erupt into the mouth when a child is about 6 years old. Second permanent molars come through at about 12 years of age. A sealant is best applied shortly after teeth erupt, before they have a chance to be affected by decay. If a young child has deep grooves in baby molar teeth, these teeth may also benefit from sealants to avoid occlusal decay and dental fillings at an early age.
BPA Free Sealants
At Melbourne Dentistry, we use only BPA free materials for our dental sealants. The process to apply a sealant is short and simple. Applying sealants does not require drilling or removing valuable tooth structure as the procedure is done on newly erupted decay free teeth.
How are Sealants applied?
After a tooth is cleaned, a special gel is placed on the chewing surface of the tooth for a number of seconds to prepare the enamel surface. The tooth is then washed free of the gel and dried thoroughly. The sealant is painted on to the tooth and allowed to flow into all the pits and fissures. It is then set hard using a bright ultra violet curing light for about 1 minute. Thus, an adherent protective shield is formed over the tooth's chewing surface.
The resulting sealant will be white in colour and confined to the pits and grooves of the tooth so that it feels comfortable in the bite. The smooth sealant surface will also be much easier to clean with a toothbrush.
Benefits of Sealants
A sealant may last for as long as 5-10 years and so delay the need for fillings in sealed tooth surfaces during this period of time. Sealants should be checked regularly, at each dental visit, to ensure they remain intact and continue to protect the teeth. They can be reapplied if chipped, worn or no longer in place.
Sealants are an important component of total preventive care, an adjunct to fluoride in decay prevention. Decay will cause permanent damage to a tooth. Each time a tooth needs to be filled, or re-filled, more drilling is done and the tooth becomes a little weaker. Sealants can help preserve tooth strength, save time, costs and discomfort often associated with dental fillings.