Dental sealants act as a barrier, protecting the teeth against decay. The sealants are usually applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth where decay occurs most often.
How does a sealant help prevent decay?
A sealant is a plastic material that is usually applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth—premolars and molars. This plastic resin bonds into the depressions and grooves (pits and fissures) of the chewing surfaces of back teeth. The sealant acts as a barrier, protecting enamel from plaque and acids.
Thorough brushing and flossing help remove food particles and plaque from smooth surfaces of teeth. But toothbrush bristles cannot reach all the way into the depressions and grooves to extract food and plaque. Sealants protect these vulnerable areas by “sealing out” plaque and food.
Is sealant application a complicated procedure?
Sealants are easy for your dentist to apply, and it takes only a few minutes to seal each tooth. The teeth that will be sealed are cleaned. Then the chewing surfaces are roughened with an acid solution to help the sealant adhere to the tooth. The sealant is then ‘painted’ onto the tooth enamel, where it bonds directly to the tooth and hardens. Sometimes a special curing light is used to help the sealant harden.
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. During your regular dental visits, your dentist will check the condition of the sealants and reapply them when necessary.
Sealants are just for kids, right?
The likelihood of developing pit and fissure decay begins early in life, so children and teenagers are obvious candidates. But adults can benefit from sealants as well.
Dr. Jane Wu is a ShanghaiMamas member and is the owner and operator of Dr. Jane Wu’s Dental Clinic, located at Room210 Building 2 No.508 Jia Shan Road (Loft). Her office can be reached at Tel: 34605359, 13585899884 (English service available). Please use the comments section below if you have any questions or ideas for dentstry-related topics you might like Dr. Wu to address in future articles.