Dental sealants protect teeth by blocking the vulnerable grooves from decay-causing bacteria. Dental sealants are usually are applied to the chewing surfaces of the permanent back teeth, including the molars and premolars, to help prevent decay. The grooves (pits and fissures) of the back teeth are especially vulnerable to decay because they are difficult to clean and bacteria is easily retained in the grooves. The sealant is applied into the pits and fissures of the teeth and provides a smooth surface over the grooves. This reduces the chance of bacteria finding their way into a groove and causing dental decay.
Why can’t I just brush and floss?
While brushing and flossing help to remove food particles and plaque from smooth surfaces of teeth, toothbrush bristles often can’t reach into the teeth’s grooves as easily. Bacteria are very small and well-retained in the all the nooks and crannies of the grooves. Sealants protect the grooves and prevent food and bacteria from being retained on the grooved surfaces.
How is a sealant applied?
Our hygienists apply sealants quickly and easily without any drilling, medication or numbness. It takes just a few minutes to seal each tooth.
Prepare the tooth – First, the hygienist cleans the tooth that needs to be sealed. Next, the hygienist isolates and dries the tooth. Then, the hygienist roughens the chewing surfaces of the tooth with an acidic gel that helps the sealant stick to the teeth. This is a process called etching. After etching, the hygienist washes off the etching material and dries the tooth again.
Apply the sealant – Next, the hygienist flows the sealant into the grooves of the tooth. It bonds directly to the tooth. The hygienist uses a special curing light to help the sealant harden so you can chew on your tooth again right away.
Evaluation – The bite is evaluated to make sure there are no major interferences.
Aren’t sealants just for kids?
Decay can begin early in life, and it is difficult for a child to keep back teeth with deep grooves brushed perfectly, so dentists generally apply sealants to children’s teeth. The sooner a tooth gets sealed after it erupts into the mouth, the most benefit it will have! Some children also have grooves in their primary (baby) molars, and in some cases, we may recommend sealants on those as well.
While they are less commonly put on after teenage years, sealants can protect adults’ teeth just as well as children's teeth. Specifically if you are at risk for cavities or have deep grooves on your teeth that do not already have fillings, sealants can be very beneficial and great at helping to prevent cavities before they ever form. Ask us about sealants for your children or for yourself, it is never too late to prevent decay by a simple sealant application!
How long do they last?
As long as the sealant remains intact, the tooth surface will be protected from decay. Sealants hold up well under the force of normal chewing and usually last several years before a reapplication is needed. The risk of decay decreases significantly after sealant application. During your regular dental visits, our hygienists will check the condition of the sealants and reapply them if necessary.
Are sealants safe?
Sealants are extremely safe. Although extremely rare, some people may have an allergic reaction to the plastic. Please let us know if you or your children have allergies so that our dentists can provide the best treatment options.
Will my insurance pay for sealants?
Dental insurance typically provides coverage for sealants on children’s and teenagers’ permanent molars. Sometimes we may suggest sealants for other teeth. If we do, we will let you know what costs are covered by your insurance company prior to any treatment.