Dental sealants are a colorless or shaded coating bonded to the chewing surface of the posterior teeth. During the development of the tooth, the cusps fuse together forming the chewing surface of the molar and premolar teeth. Due to variations in this process the chewing surface typically contains multiple pits and fissures, many microscopic in size. Even if your child meticulously flosses and brushes, it is difficult, if not impossible to thoroughly clean these tiny grooves and crevices. The toothbrush bristle is physically too large and does not fit or extend into all of these crevices and indentations. Food and bacteria accumulate in these vulnerable surfaces greatly enhancing your child’s risk for tooth decay.
With the common presence of fluoride in the community water and other fluoride containing products, the most common pattern of decay includes the pits and grooves of the molar teeth. Brushing, flossing, and the natural saliva flow can keep smooth surfaces of the teeth clean and healthy, but has little effect on the plaque and bacteria embedded in the crevices of the posterior chewing surfaces.
The dental sealant flows into these pits and grooves and forms a smooth bonded barrier impenetrable to food and bacteria, thus significantly reducing or eliminating the risk of decay. In addition, by removing the microscopic pits and crevices, the toothbrush can now completely cleanse the entire chewing surface of the molar teeth.
Application of the sealant material is simple, fast, and inexpensive. The tooth surface is first cleaned and isolated to prevent moisture contamination during the procedure. The enamel is conditioned to allow proper bonding of the sealant material. The sealant is then flowed into the grooves and crevices on the enamel surface and hardened with a curing light. No “drilling or numbing” is required, and the child is able to eat or continue with normal activities immediately after placement.
Most dental insurance policies include sealants as a covered benefit, although some have age and specific tooth limitations. Typically, the first (6 year) and second (12 year) permanent molars are the teeth most susceptible to occlusal surface decay and benefit most from the placement of sealants. However, in certain individuals the morphology of the premolars or primary molars warrants the placement of sealants.