What are dental sealants?
Dental sealants are thin, plastic coatings painted on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth - molars and premolars - and are highly effective in the prevention of tooth decay (caries and cavities). Dental sealants are effective on the back teeth, as the molars contain more hard-to-reach pits and grooves that serve as a host to food debris and plaque build-up.
Sealants do not help smooth surfaces of the teeth. Brushing and flossing are still very important.
How effective are dental sealants?
Because the sealants act as a physical barrier to decay and plaque build-up, in most cases, they provide 100 percent protection. The most important variable is how well the dental sealant adheres to the teeth. The dental sealant becomes ineffective when all or part of the bond between the tooth and the sealant is broken. They must be evaluated at every dental check-up to assess their integrity and to make sure that chips and fractures do not allow leakage that can lead to decay.
Who are likely candidates for dental sealants?
Sealants are especially beneficial for children because their newly erupted, permanent teeth are most susceptible to cavities and least benefited by fluoride. However, patients of all ages can benefit from dental sealants.
What does the procedure involve?
The procedure starts with cleaning the surface of the tooth, rinsing the surface to remove all traces of the cleaning agent, and drying the tooth. A solution or gel is applied to the surface of the tooth, including the pits and grooves, to make the surface of the tooth rough or etched. After several seconds, the solution is thoroughly rinsed away with water and the site is dried. The liquid sealant is then applied and is hardened with a special ultraviolet light.
With proper oral hygiene, sealants may last five to 10 years.
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