Sealants are a group of dental materials that are placed on the teeth’s surfaces to prevent the appearance of dental caries. The anatomy of a tooth is different on every single surface. Some of them are convex and smooth, while others are made of pits and fissures. The occlusal surfaces are in most cases the hardest one to brush, mostly because of those depressions and pointed areas they are made of. Cusps are divided by pits and fissures, which are also different in different teeth and patients. Some have very deep fissures that are even impossible to brush with a regular toothbrush. These are the surfaces we use to chew food, so a lot of particles are left there. That is when bacteria come in touch with the food and creates acids. Those acids are very harmful to the enamel and can cause caries. This is one of the reasons why great oral hygiene is key to preventing tooth decay. Dental sealants are mostly used for kids, but they can also be placed on adult posterior teeth. Patients with a higher risk of caries should be treated with sealants. Dentists apply these plastic materials on the occlusal surfaces, covering the pits and fissures. This creates a smooth surface, which is much easier to clean. They are used for posterior teeth, permanent molars and premolars, and in some cases for the frontal ones to protect the cingulum if there are pits and fissures.
Brushing, flossing and using a mouthwash is the perfect combination for a clean oral cavity. They are ideal for the smooth surfaces. But unfortunately, sometimes this type of hygiene is not enough to clean the occlusal surfaces. Dental sealants provide an additional protection is preventing the appearance of caries, especially with children of high risk. If the child is not good at providing oral hygiene, their permanent teeth can easily become decayed. That is why a lot of dentists decide to protect the teeth with sealants.
How do they look like?
These materials can vary a lot, it all depends on the manufacturer. Some dentists use a clear sealant, others opt for colorful ones, including pink, orange, blue, they can also be white, or colored like the teeth.
When are they placed?
The first sealant is usually placed once the first permanent molar has erupted. The whole tooth doesn’t have to be completely erupted, only the occlusal surface. Dentists continue sealing the other permanent teeth as they appear in the mouth. The time of eruption for the first permanent molar is at around six years. Wisdom teeth are not sealed in general, because they erupt at a much later age. Other molars continue erupting until the age of 13 for most patients. Dental sealants can also be used for primary teeth. When you take your child to the pedodontist, you can discuss this procedure with them. It is not very common for sealants to be used for adults, but it can definitely happen. If there are people who are exposed to a high risk for caries, then sealing is an option.
The procedure is very simple and pain-free. The dentist first has to professionally clean the surfaces. This can be done by the hygienist as well, depending on the dental office. Once that’s done, the following step requires a dry tooth. The tooth is etched with acid which is rinsed off. That is when the sealant can be placed. Some require a light for them to become hard, others don’t. They last for many years but should be controlled during dental exams.