Sealants are a thin, plastic filling material that is painted on the chewing surfaces of teeth. It is usually the back teeth (the premolars and molars), to help prevent tooth decay. The sealant bonds into the depressions and grooves of the teeth, forming a protective shield over the deep groves in the enamel of each tooth.
Although thorough brushing and flossing can remove food particles and plaque from smooth surfaces of teeth, they cannot always get into all the nooks and crannies of the back teeth to remove the food and plaque. Dental sealants protect these vulnerable areas from tooth decay by "sealing out" bacterial plaque and food.
Applying a sealant is a simple and painless process. It takes a few minutes for the dentist to apply the sealant to seal each tooth. The application steps are as follows:
- First the teeth that are to be sealed are thoroughly cleaned.
- Each tooth is then dried, and cotton or another absorbent material is put around the tooth to keep it dry.
- An acid solution (we call it a shampoo!) is put on the chewing surfaces of the teeth to etch the surface which allows the sealant to bond to the teeth.
- The teeth are then rinsed and dried.
- Sealant is then painted on the tooth. A special curing light is used to harden the sealant.
Sealants can protect teeth from decay for up to 10 years, but they need to be checked for chipping or wearing at regular dental check-ups. Your dentist can replace sealants as necessary.
Also see...Dental Cleaning