Applying sealants on the chewing surface of permanent teeth may offer some children supplemental protection against tooth decay. Sealants are thin plastic coatings that seal off the pits and fissures (depressions and grooves) on the biting surface of the posterior (back) teeth.
Sealants act as a barrier against plaque and acids in these vulnerable areas on the chewing surface of the tooth.
While brushing and flossing can easily remove plaque (a sticky mixture of bacteria, food and debris) from the smooth surfaces of the teeth, they are sometimes ineffective at getting into the minute pits and fissures. Tooth decay is caused by the bacterial breakdown of food into acid, which dissolves away the enamel cover of the tooth. Sealants act as a barrier against plaque and acids in these vulnerable areas on the chewing surface of the tooth.
Sealants are most effective if applied to the tooth soon after eruption. A child’s first permanent molars erupt at about age six and at about 12 years of age for the second, permanent molars. The pre-molars (bicuspids) are also prime candidates for sealants. However, sealants are not always required/necessary for every child.
The application of sealants require no anesthesia. It can be painted on in just a few minutes per tooth. As part of the procedure, the teeth are first cleaned and the chewing surface is “conditioned” with a solution that helps the sealant bond to the enamel. Sometimes a “curing” light is utilized to hasten the bonding.
Sealants typically last up to 5 years or more and are easily replaced if lost. They should be examined at each check-up.