You might spend all day admiring those attractive front teeth, but your back teeth molars get the real work done. The chewing surfaces of your molar back teeth are rough and contoured with pits and grooves to help break down food. While brushing and flossing helps remove food and dental plaque from smooth tooth surfaces, properly cleaning these deep fissures on your molars can be much more difficult.
Luckily, dental sealants offer molars a safeguard from tooth decay. Made of plastic resin, these tooth sealants are applied to the grooves of premolars and molars to “seal out” cavity-causing bacteria and food.
Decay starts early in life, so dental sealants are generally placed on your teeth at a young age.
The first set of permanent molars usually erupts by age 6. Sealing these chewing surfaces soon after will help keep them healthy and protect them from cavities. Much later, second molars erupt during the rapid growth spurts of teenagers. These molars are just as vulnerable as the first, and the typical teenager will subject them to excessive sugar. The sooner these chewing surfaces can be sealed, the better.
Although dental sealants are usually applied early in life, adults at high risk of developing decay can also benefit from receiving them. Consult with your dentist to determine if tooth sealants are right for you.
How Your Dentist “Seals the Deal”
Applying dental sealants is relatively simple for your dentist, and generally takes just a few minutes per tooth. A dental sealant procedure includes three steps:
Step 1. The teeth requiring dental sealants are cleaned.
Step 2. An acid solution is then applied to the chewing surfaces to help the dental sealant adhere to the tooth.
Step 3. The dental sealant is “painted” onto the tooth enamel to bond and harden.
In some cases, a curing light may be used to help the dental sealant harden. When they remain intact, dental sealants can last for years.
Total Preventive Care
Contrary to popular belief, dental sealants are not meant to replace fluoride in your dental care program. Rather, sealants are meant to work with fluoride. Fluoride protects the smooth surfaces of teeth from decay; sealants protect the chewing surfaces. Therefore, using both ensures a well-rounded preventive dentistry routine.