The chewing surfaces of our back teeth (molars and premolars) have grooves known as “fissures”, which are vulnerable to bacteria and acids that contribute to causing tooth decay. These fissures, which are thinner than even a lone bristle on a toothbrush, are often deep and difficult to clean. As a result, plaque builds more easily in these areas, attacking the enamel and threatening your teeth with the development of cavities. This is where dental sealants come in, to prevent this and help protect teeth.
If you or a loved one are suffering from developing decay, have difficulty brushing your teeth properly due to unique circumstances such as a disability, and are considering dental sealants as a possible solution, our team at Mark A. Coussens, DMD Family & Cosmetic Dentistry is here to make sure you have the facts necessary to make an informed decision. To have any questions answered or schedule an appointment to discuss whether you are an appropriate candidate for sealant treatment, call (503) 567-4121 today!
What Are Dental Sealants?
A dental sealant is a plastic coating typically applied on the chewing (occlusal) surface of your molars and premolars in order to help protect against attacking bacteria and acids. They can have a variety of appearances ranging from clear to white or having a slight tint, depending on the sealant being applied.
What Makes Sealants Helpful?
Although proper brushing and flossing already help remove leftover food and debris that lead to plaque from the smooth surfaces of your teeth, even the best toothbrushes can’t reach all the way into the deeper depressions and grooves to erase every food particle. While fluoride already gives protection to the entire surface of our teeth and helps prevent decay, dental sealants offer additional defense to the grooved and pitted areas, providing a smooth surface over the harder to reach fissures.
How Is a Dental Sealant Placed?
Your tooth’s surface must first be thoroughly cleaned with a paste and rotating brush by Dr. Coussens. Secondly, that tooth will be washed with water and dried. An acidic solution is then applied on the fissured area of the occlusal surface for several seconds before being rinsed. This creates tiny areas and a rougher surface than the surrounding tooth enamel, which can be examined with a microscope. The fine rough surface and microscopic zones allow the sealant to attach to your tooth.
Following a second drying of the tooth, the liquid sealant is applied to it. Using either a light or two-component sealant, it will be hardened. Once hardening is complete, the sealant becomes a solid plastic varnish coating, enabling the patient to safely chew again.
When Are Dental Sealants Applied?
The first sealant is typically placed on the fissure of your first permanent molar (The tooth that grows in behind your baby teeth) after that tooth’s chewing surface has erupted completely beyond the gum-line. Once the occlusal surfaces are sealed, the sealant will keep the tooth in a layer of protection. Aside from wisdom teeth, which erupt much later, your molars and premolars will keep growing until between the ages of 11-13. After these teeth’s chewing surfaces have erupted, they too can be sealed.
Are Dental Sealants Only Placed on the Chewing Surfaces of Teeth?
Sealants are commonly applied to the occlusal surfaces of your teeth because those areas have the deepest fissures. However, they may also be used on your other permanent teeth if they have similar grooves or pits, to give those surfaces the same protection. Sometimes, children’s molars in their primary dentition (baby teeth) also have fissures that can benefit from sealant protection, in which case, it can be recommended to apply them to the chewing surfaces of those primary teeth as well.
Can Dental Sealants Be Used on Adult Teeth?
Yes, teeth of almost any age range can potentially benefit from sealants. Though less common for adults, they are sometimes used on patients at greater risk for caries. In such cases, it is usually applied to the deep grooves and fissures which do not already have fillings or other sealants.
How Long Do Dental Sealants Last?
Sealants have been utilized to effective results since the 1970s. They are strong enough to last many years, though it is possible to have a replacement sealant applied on any tooth surface if needed. It’s important to remember, though, that sealants only protect the surface area they’re positioned on. Fluoride still helps protect all surfaces of your teeth from decay and potential cavities.
Remember, if you or a loved one are considering seeking dental sealants and wish to make an appointment with Dr. Coussens, call Mark A. Coussens, DMD Family & Cosmetic Dentistry at (503) 567-4121.