What are dental sealants?

Sealants are plastice coatings that are applied to the pits and fissures of a tooth surface to prevent accumulation of decay causing plaque in these areas. They are applied as a flowable liquid that flows into the pits and fissures of the chewing surfaces of the back teeth, then hardened with a high intensity dental curing light. This is a simple painless procedure requiring no anesthetic or drilling.

Fluorides have markedly reduced incidence of tooth decay in children on the smooth surfaces of teeth since the early 1970's. By the mid 1980's approximately 90 percent of the decay in children's teeth occured in surfaces with pits or fissures and almost two-thirds were on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth. These are the areas dental sealants protect. They have been approved for many years by professional health associations and public health agencies. Many people are still unaware of dental sealants today. In fact, fewer than 25 percent of children in the United States have sealants applied.

When Should Sealants Be Applied?

Children should get sealants placed as soon as their permanent molars start coming in, before any decay has a chance to occur. This usually starts at about the age of six. Second molars usually come in around the age of twelve, so children should be checked for sealant application regularly from the age of six through their early teen years. Adults at high risk of decay can also benefit from sealants in areas that have not already had to be filled or restored.

How Are Sealants Put On?

• The tooth is cleaned
• The tooth is dried, and isolated with cotton
• A solution is put on the tooth that makes the surface a little rough. This makes the bonding of the sealant material stronger
• The tooth is rinsed and dried
• The sealant is applied in liquid form and hardened for 10 seconds with a dental curing light
• The sealant is finished

How Long Do Sealants Last?

Sealants can last as long as ten years. However, they need to be checked at regular intervals during normal dental checkups to make sure they are not chipped or worn away. If needed, the dentist or dental hygienist can repair the sealants by adding more.

How Can I Get Dental Sealants For My Children?

Talk to your dentist, state or local dental society, or health department. Some schools have programs for sealant application. Check with your school about whether it has a sealant application program.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Steven J. Brazis attended dental school at the University of the Pacific School of Dentistry in San Francisco and graduated in 1973. He has been practicing general dentistry for 34 years. He bought this practice in 1995 and has had a very successful and fulfilling 12 years with mostly the same staff.

Dr. Brazis is a member of the American Dental Association, the California Dental Association and the Sacramento District Dental Society. He is a past member of the San Francisco Dental Society where he also served a term on the Curriculum committee, responsible for the continuing education programs for the society.

Dr. Brazis practices all phases of general dentistry and has had extensive experience in some aspects of oral surgery, but enjoys most the sense of fulfillment of helping someone achieve their best smile employing the latest technology available to the dental field.