Dental Sealants Prevent Tooth Decay & Cavities
Sealants are thin plastic coatings that are applied to the chewing surface of the back teeth to prevent decay. Molars have irregular chewing surfaces with pits and grooves, which tend to trap food and bacterial debris. Sealants flow into these areas to fill them in, thus preventing bacteria and decay from destroying the enamel and exposing the soft, easily damaged dentin. They are often used even by people who brush scrupulously, since deep molar fissures are frequently beyond the reach of toothbrush bristles.
Some indications that you might benefit from the use of dental sealants on your molars include, but are not limited to:
- Frequent cavities in other parts of the mouth, meaning the molars are vulnerable also.
- Exceptionally deep folds and pits in your molar enamel.
- Signs of decay detected while at a dental appointment.
- Visible defects in the molar enamel, without decay yet present.
It is also thought prudent to apply sealants to the permanent molars of children after they come in, due to the high number of childhood cavities. Shielding the molars through this crucial period often leads to greatly improved molar health and solidity later in life.
How are Sealants Applied?
Applying sealants requires no drilling or removal of the original tooth surface. First, the tooth is dabbed with a mildly acidic solution, which is no stronger than vinegar or lemon juice. This roughens the tooth surface slightly, allowing the sealant to form a strong bond by “gripping” the enamel firmly.
The sealant is painted onto the tooth, flowing into all exposed pits, grooves, and folds. After 60 seconds, the sealant has hardened and now protects the tooth from bacteria and decay. Certain sealants make use of a curing light to dry them faster, though many dry on their own in around a minute. The resulting coating is nearly invisible except under very close inspection – and who is likely to be examining your molars except for your dentist?
How Long Do Sealants Last?
An original sealant will frequently last for around 5 years. The sealed teeth are checked every time you come in for a tooth cleaning or other dental checkup, so that wear, chipping, and cracking can be detected quickly and dealt with. Once the sealant starts to show signs of wearing off, it is reapplied in exactly the same way. Since teeth are most susceptible to decay when a person is young, preventing cavities in the molars during the first to fifteenth years after a tooth erupts is critical.