Human teeth are designed for chewing, but sometimes their shape can make them difficult to clean. The back teeth or molars are particularly problematic because of the pits and grooves on their surfaces. Toothbrushes cannot access those areas well, and while flossing is a good way to remove particles from between the teeth, there is really no good method of completely cleaning the surfaces of the molars or other teeth that have rough chewing surfaces. Dental sealants can help by filling the grooves and blocking out cavity-causing bacteria.
Dental sealants are an excellent protection against tooth decay and cavities for children, who can get sealants when their first permanent teeth have come in. The procedure of getting sealants is simple and painless. The dentist first cleans the teeth and rinses them with water. A solution is then placed on the tooth or teeth to be sealed that creates a rough surface for the sealant to attach to. After a few minutes the solution is rinsed off and the teeth are dried. The liquid sealant itself is then painted on the surface of the teeth. The sealant is a plastic material that hardens and bonds to the tooth. After being placed on the teeth, the speed of the hardening process can be increased by the application of a light source to cure the sealant.
Dental sealants are ideal for children and can protect their most vulnerable teeth from problems early on, but adults can also get dental sealants. Dental sealants are strong and hold up well through normal chewing. They can last for years, and can be reapplied as needed. During regular dental checkups your dentist can check the condition of your sealants and recommend reapplication when necessary.
Dental sealants are generally clear or tooth-colored, so they cannot be seen on the teeth. Sealants can block out food particles and protect teeth against cavities and the need for fillings. Sealants can be placed on any teeth, but are usually placed on the back teeth. Teeth that already have fillings or are decayed cannot receive sealants.
Teeth that have been sealed still need proper care, including daily brushing and flossing and regular dental checkups. Fluoride toothpaste is recommended even if teeth are sealed, as it can provide extra protection against decay.