Protecting Teeth, Preventing Decay
One of the most common places that tooth decay develops is on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth, the premolars and molars. Because the grooves on the back of your teeth are hard to keep clean, your dentist may recommend dental sealants. A dental sealant is a plastic material that is applied to a chewing surface of a back tooth. The sealant acts as a barrier, protecting enamel by “sealing out” plaque and food. This is great for children as soon as the premolars and molars come in.
How are sealants applied?
Sealants are easy to apply, and it takes only a few minutes to seal each tooth. First, the teeth that will be sealed are cleaned and prepared to accept the sealant. The sealant is then ‘painted’ onto the tooth enamel, where it bonds directly to the tooth and hardens. Sealants are generally clear or white and cannot be seen when you smile or talk.
How long do sealants last?
As long as the sealant remains intact, the tooth’s chewing surfaces will be protected from plaque and food. Sealants, which hold up well under the force of everyday chewing, can last a few years before a reapplication is needed. However, it is important to see your dentist regularly to check that the sealant remains intact.
The likelihood of developing tooth decay on the chewing surfaces begins shortly after teeth come into the mouth, so children and teenagers are obvious candidates for sealants. Adults can benefit from sealants, too, because you never ‘outgrow’ the risk for developing cavities.