Your teeth are like precious pearls and need lifelong care and attention for proper functioning. Adults have upper and lower teeth lining their mouth and differently shaped front and back teeth. The front teeth, or anterior teeth, are used for biting and tearing while the back teeth take up the significant burden of chewing and grinding food into smaller bits. If you look closely at your back teeth or molars, you see that they do not have a flat surface. Instead, the surface of molars has pointy peaks and valleys. Tooth sealants are a preventive dental alternative.

The care needed for front and back teeth or molars is different, with molar teeth requiring greater attention. The molars are difficult to clean with a toothbrush and flossing and are less visible for a dental cleaning. If a dental cavity develops in a tooth, it can lead to the destruction of the tooth structure. Dental cavities may require multiple dental visits, high cost, dental pain, and distress to restore to excellent condition.

Prevention is always a better path than treatment. There are excellent options for protecting molar surfaces from tooth decay. Tooth sealants are safe, minimally invasive, and convenient dental materials used to protect the teeth of both children and adults.

What Is a Tooth Sealant?

dentist treating her patient

This is a thin, protective resin that is used to prevent dental decay. Dental sealants are applied to the surfaces of molars or back teeth to prevent food and bacteria from accumulating within their grooves. Sealants are made of a thin coating of plastic that is painted onto the tooth surface.

How Does Dental Decay Occur?

Dental decay occurs when food debris lodges into the deep surface depressions of molars. The impacted food is difficult to clean because of the location of molars and the depth of the fissures of these teeth. Bacteria present in the mouth then breaks down the food which is stuck in the teeth to acids. The acids harm the teeth and destroy its hard mineral content. Dental cavities form because of acid erosion of the tooth surface by bacteria. Eventually, dental pain and infection occur which may need dental restorations to restore the healthy tooth structure.

How Do Tooth Sealants Protect Teeth?

Dental sealants are akin to raincoats or protective tooth coverings. They protect the tooth from decay and bacterial attack by coating the tooth surface. All the deep grooves and fissures of the teeth are protected from contact with the resident bacteria of the oral cavity. Sealants do not allow dental caries to form on the sealed surfaces. If sealants are placed over initial dental decay, they prevent the dental decay from extending into the underlying portions of the tooth.

Benefits of Tooth Sealants

child at dentist

Tooth sealants offer multiple benefits for molars and ensure that they remain free of dental decay. The major advantages are:

  •  Pain-free procedure
  • Minimal or no tooth cutting involved
  • Simple and quick placement
  • Effective protection against dental decay
  • Long-lasting tooth decay prevention for children and adults
  • Lower cost as compared to dental restorations

What Are the Types of Sealants Available?

Tooth sealants are made of a resin material that hardens on light or chemical activation. Sealants are available in a variety of options. They may be transparent while other types may be colored. Some sealants may also contain fluoride, an anti-cavity agent for additional benefit.

How Are Tooth Sealants Placed?

Dental sealants may be placed painlessly in a single dental visit. Sometimes, the dentist may prepare the tooth before application. Tooth preparation involves deepening or widening the tooth fissures to allow the dental sealant to penetrate better. The steps for placement that your dentist will follow are:

  • 1
    Cleaning of the Tooth Surface

The tooth surface is cleaned professionally before sealant application. This cleaning helps the sealant develop a strong bond with the tooth surface.

  • 2
    Drying of the Tooth

Your dentist will make sure that the tooth is dried entirely before sealing it. This improves the bond of the adhesion between the tooth and the sealant.

  • 3
    Tooth Preparation

The tooth surface is prepared by roughening it slightly with a gel. The gel stays on the tooth surface for about 30 to 60 seconds and is then rinsed off. This helps the sealant adhere well to the tooth and increases its penetration into deep grooves or fissures on the tooth surface.

  • 4
    Tooth Sealant Application

The dental sealant is finally applied on the clean, dry and roughened tooth surface. The sealant may be transparent or colored. The sealant applied may require activation by a light source. Some sealants may change color on light activation to show they are fully set. Sealants may feel different from your natural teeth once they are in place. This feeling usually settles within a few days, but you can visit your dentist if they feel uncomfortable after placement.

Who Are the Best Candidates for Tooth Sealants?

Dental sealants are an effective method to prevent tooth decay in both children and adults. The best candidates for tooth sealing are:

  • 1
    Children

Both primary (milk teeth) and permanent teeth of children and teenagers may benefit from dental sealants. As permanent teeth erupt into the mouth of children, they become prone to dental decay. This usually occurs between the ages of six to 12 years. Newly erupted teeth are immature, and there is an increased risk of developing dental decay when compared to fully erupted teeth.

The risk of dental caries due to the eruption of new teeth, insufficient tooth cleaning, and sugary foods can be offset by sealing the newly erupted teeth with dental sealants. Milk or primary teeth can also be sealed to avoid tooth decay. However, it may be a little difficult to place sealants on the teeth of very young children.

  • 2
    Young Adults or Teenagers

Young adults have permanent teeth in their mouth beyond the ages of 12 or 13 years. These teeth are prone to dental decay if they have deep grooves on their surface. Further, some teeth such as the second molars may not have erupted completely which makes them more susceptible to dental caries. Tooth sealants can seal the tooth surface and eliminate its interaction with bacteria causing dental caries.

  • 3
    Adults

The tooth surface is prepared by roughening it slightly with a gel. The gel stays on the tooth surface for about 30 to 60 seconds and is then rinsed off. This helps the sealant adhere well to the tooth and increases its penetration into deep grooves or fissures on the tooth surface.

  • 4
    Tooth Sealant Application

Adults may require sealants to protect molars from tooth decay. Adults with the following conditions have more reasons to opt for dental sealants:

  • Teeth prone to frequent dental decay
  • Pits and fissures on their molars are deep and complicated to clean
  • Medical conditions that make teeth prone to dental decay
  • Inadequate tooth brushing due to any reason

5 Reasons to Get a Tooth Sealant

interior of new modern dental clinic office

dentistry, medicine, medical equipment and stomatology concept - interior of new modern dental clinic office with chair

Tooth sealants are an easy and safe way of preventing tooth cavities from developing. They also prevent the spread of dental caries or tooth decay. Once tooth cavities extend, there is a lot of expense, time, and effort involved to save the tooth using dental restorations. Look at the five key reasons to get your teeth sealed:

  • 1
    Surface Protection of Molars

Molars are located at the deep recesses of your mouth. This makes the cleaning of the back teeth a challenging process, especially the ends of narrow depressions on their surfaces. Even the best brushing procedures may not remove the debris from deep fissures of molars. Tooth sealants can seal off the tooth surface from the mouth. The surface protection offered by tooth sealants may prevent food from accumulating on molars and prevent future dental decay.

  • 2
    Prevention of Dental Cavities

Sometimes, initial tooth decay may begin on the surface of molars. The initial dental caries may eventually lead to a full-blown tooth cavity that requires restoration with a dental material. The early stages of dental decay may be intercepted through the use of a tooth sealant.

  • 3
    Durable Tooth Protection

Tooth sealants offer long-term tooth protection. Dental sealants last many years or in some cases, a lifetime. Regular dental check-ups can ensure that they remain intact. Sealants that chip or wear off can be easily repaired or replaced at the dental office.

  • 4
    Effective Alternative to Drilling

Tooth Sealants are effective dental safeguarding options that do not require extensive tooth cutting. Sometimes, they may not need any drilling or cutting of the tooth at all. Dental sealants prevent tooth cavities from developing. If dental cavities form, they usually require extensive cutting and drilling that weakens the tooth.

  • 5
    Esthetic Dental Option

Tooth sealants may be placed as a clear coating that is minimally visible. They blend well with the natural color of teeth, so you do not have to worry about any discolored teeth showing through when you talk or laugh.

Conclusion

Tooth sealants are a safe and effective means of preventing tooth decay through their sealing effect on deep fissures of teeth. Why risk dental pain, infection, and high costs when you can help avoid dental decay through a simple procedure? Tooth sealants may be the ultimate solution to complex dental problems before they occur, so visit your dentist to protect your teeth as soon as possible.

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