Plaque is a major cause of dental decay and cavities in both children and adults, leading to fillings, root canal treatment, and, sometimes, extractions.
Dental sealants are a type of thin plastic that dentists paint on teeth to prevent tooth decay and cavities, usually the molars and premolars. They start out as putty but quickly bond to the grooves and depressions in the teeth, forming a protective barrier that shields them. Even if plaque-producing bacteria build up in the mouth, the plastic film prevents the acid they produce from weakening the enamel underneath. Children are the most common recipients of dental sealants, though adults can get them, too.
Who Is A Candidate For Sealants?
Children and teenagers are the primary candidates for receiving sealants due to the high likelihood of developing decay in both the premolars and the molars. However, some adults without decay or fillings also choose to use sealants, particularly if they have concerns about their nutrition.
How Do Dentists Apply Sealants?
Applying dental sealants is a quick, easy and simple process that only takes a few minutes. Dentists begin by selecting the teeth they will seal and cleaning them. They then dry each tooth with cotton and other absorbent materials before applying an acid gel. The acid gently roughens the surface of the teeth, preparing them to bond with the sealant.
Dentists then rinse and dry the teeth again, before painting the sealant onto the tooth enamel. The sealant bonds and hardens, either by itself or with the help of a curing light.
How To Take Care Of Dental Sealants
After you or your child has dental sealants fitted, eating can continue as normal. However, dentists recommend avoiding hard foods, such as candies or ice, that can damage dental sealants. If a sealant breaks, cracks, chips, or falls out, teeth become vulnerable to decay again and you will need to return to the clinic.
Do Sealants Last A Long Time?
Sealants can protect teeth for up to ten years against decay. However, like fillings, they require regular monitoring. The plastic film can chip over time, leaving exposed enamel underneath vulnerable to decay.
While sealants can protect teeth on the biting surface, they can’t protect the gums or other oral tissues. For this reason, proper oral hygiene is still essential.
When Can Children Get Their First Sealants?
Children can get their first sealants as soon as they get their first permanent molars, around age 6 for their first molars, and age 12 for their second molars.
Do Sealants Change How Teeth Feel?
Because sealants are thin pieces of plastic placed over teeth, they can change how they feel when children run their tongues over them. Sealants may make teeth feel slightly more slippery than usual before acclimatization occurs.
Do Sealants Change How Teeth Appear?
Sealants can change how teeth appear slightly. However, manufacturers design treatments to be inconspicuous. Most are clear or white in color to blend in with surrounding teeth naturally.