Sealants, also referred to as dental sealants, consist of a thin plastic coating that is placed on the chewing (occlusal) surface of the permanent back teeth — the molars and premolars. The back teeth have fissures (grooves) and some front teeth have cingulum pits. The sealant quickly bonds into the depressions and grooves of the teeth, forming a protective shield over the enamel of each tooth. This helps to protect teeth from bacteria and acids that contribute to tooth decay.
Typically, children should get sealants on their permanent molars and premolars as soon as these teeth come in. In this way, the sealants can protect the teeth through the cavity-prone years of ages 6 to 14.
Why Dental sealants?
Thorough brushing and flossing helps remove food particles and plaque from the smooth surfaces of teeth, but tooth brushes cannot reach all the way into the depressions and grooves to extract all food and plaque. Dental sealants provide extra protection for the grooved and pitted areas by providing a smooth surface covering over the fissured area
Fluoride in toothpaste and in drinking water protects the smooth surfaces of teeth but back teeth need extra protection. Having sealants put on teeth before they decay will also save time and money in the long run by avoiding fillings, crowns, or caps used to fix decayed teeth.
How are dental sealants placed?
Applying sealant is a simple and painless process. It takes only a few minutes for your dentist or hygienist to apply the sealant to seal each tooth. The application steps are as follows:
- First the teeth that are to be sealed are thoroughly cleaned.
- Each tooth is then dried, and cotton or another absorbent material is put around the tooth to keep it dry.
- A solution is put on the chewing surfaces of the teeth to roughen them up, which helps the sealant bond to the teeth.
- The teeth are then rinsed and dried.
- Sealant is then applied in liquid form, where it bonds directly to the tooth and hardens. Sometimes a special curing light is used to help the sealant harden.
Children should get sealants on their permanent molars as soon as the teeth come in — before decay attacks the teeth.
The first permanent molars, called “6 year molars”, come in between the ages of 5 and 7.
The second permanent molars, called “12 year molars”, come in when a child is between 11 and 14 years old.
Other teeth with pits and grooves also might need to be sealed. Teenagers and young adults who are prone to decay may also need sealants.
How long do sealants last?
Sealants can last for several years. But they need to be checked at regular dental check-ups to make sure they are not chipped or worn away. If necessary, it is also possible to place a new dental sealant on the tooth.
Do I still need to use fluoride if I have dental sealants?
Yes. Dental sealants only protect the surface area that they are placed on. Fluoride helps protect all the surfaces of the tooth from decay and cavities.
Does Insurance Cover the Cost of Sealants?
Many dental insurance companies cover the cost of sealants. Our well trained staff will check with your dental insurance to determine if sealants are covered under your plan.