Dental sealants are plastic coatings applied to the chewing surfaces of primary (baby) and permanent (adult) teeth to prevent tooth crevices from trapping food particles and oral bacteria. According to the American Dental Association (ADA) and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, sealants are effective in preventing and arresting dental caries (cavities) in the anatomic grooves in the teeth of children and adolescents. The ADA estimated that sealants on permanent molars reduce the risk of cavities by 80%.
Sealants, applied only to teeth that have fully erupted beyond the gums, are usually not visible when a child smiles or talks, and can last many years. Sealants need to be maintained and evaluated as they wear, and sometimes require touch-ups. The typical patients for sealants are children and teens. Teeth with fillings are more common in adults, who therefore are not suitable candidates for dental sealants.
The procedure for applying dental sealants is painless and rather simple. After thoroughly cleaning the tooth surface with a paste and a rotating brush, the tooth is washed with water and dried. To create an abrasive surface that promotes binding of the sealant to the tooth surface, the creviced surface of the tooth is treated with a mild solution. Upon drying the roughened tooth surface, the dental sealant is applied and allowed to harden. Depending upon the specific type of material used, the sealant may be hardened by exposure to light.
Sealants are a great way to protect teeth in a growing child as they learn to develop better eating and oral hygiene habits. Sealants prevent decay and help avoid much more costly dental restorations. It’s a win-win!