Here at Fusion Dental Care, our cosmetic dentists have been using dental sealants to help protect our patient’s teeth for years. If you’re unfamiliar with dental sealants, they are plastic coatings that normally get put onto the chewing surface (occlusal) of one’s permanent back teeth – the premolars and molars – to help protect them against decay.
Why do dental sealants get put on teeth?
There are grooves on the chewing surfaces of the premolar and molar teeth called fissures that cause them to be vulnerable to decay. The fissures may be deep and are hard to clean. They can even be narrower than just one bristle on a toothbrush. In these areas, plaque can accumulate, and the acid from the bacteria within the plaque can attack the enamel which results in cavities developing. Fluoride helps to prevent decay and protect the surfaces of your teeth, but dental sealants provide an extra layer of protection for those pitted and grooved area by offering a smooth surface to cover the fissured area over.
When do dental sealants get placed?
Normally the first dental sealant that gets placed is on the fissure appearing on the initial permanent molar tooth, once the chewing surface of the tooth completely erupts beyond the gum. These teeth grow behind your baby teeth. When the chewing (occlusal) surfaces of those teeth get sealed, then the dental sealant helps to protect the tooth. Except for the wisdom teeth, which comes through a lot later, the premolars and molars keep erupting until a child is eleven to thirteen years old, and then the chewing surfaces of those teeth may be sealed once they have risen past the gum.
Do dental sealants get placed only on the chewing surfaces of premolar and molar permanent teeth?
Usually, dental sealants get put onto the chewing surfaces of those teeth because those are the teeth and areas where deep fissures tend to be. Contrary to popular belief, they are not just placed on your teeth for cosmetic reasons. Sometimes dental sealants are used as well on other permanent teeth when they have deep pits or grooves, to help with protecting those surfaces. For some children, in the baby teeth (primary dentition) the molars have grooves as well that may benefit from having dental sealants. In that situation, your hygienist or dentist might recommend dental sealants for the chewing surfaces of those primary teeth.
Can dental sealants be put onto adult teeth?
Yes, although it is less common. Sometimes dental sealants are put on adults who are at risk for cavities. They are placed on the deep fissures and grooves that don’t have dental sealants or fillings already.
What do dental sealants look like?
Depending on what dental sealant is used, it may be white, clear or have a slight tint to it.
How do dental sealants get placed?
First of all, your hygienist or dentist will thoroughly clean the tooth surface with a rotating brush and paste. Next, the tooth will be washed with water and then dried. An acidic solution will then be put onto the fissured area on the chewing surface of the tooth for several seconds and then rinsed off. That creates microscopic areas with a surface that is finer and rougher than the tooth enamel surrounding it, that may be seen using a microscope. This microscopic area and rough surface allow the dental sealant to be attached to the tooth. Once the tooth has dried once more, bond is applied for extra retention of the sealant and cured before placing the liquid dental sealant. The way that dental sealants get hardened is through using a light that will harden the dental sealant. After the dental sealant hardens, it will turn into a varnish hard plastic coating, and you will be able to chew with the tooth once again. If you have porcelain veneers, be sure to let your dental hygienist know before starting treatment.
How long with the dental sealant last?
Since the 1970’s dental sealants have been used and proven to be effective. Numerous studies have shown they are effective with help to prevent decay from developing on chewing (occlusal) surfaces of teeth. Dental sealants may last for a number of years. New dental sealant may be placed on a tooth if needed.
Once I have dental sealants, will I need to use fluoride still?
Yes, you will. Only the surface area of teeth they are placed on are protected by dental sealants. Fluoride helps with protecting all surfaces of teeth from cavities and decay. If you are considering having your teeth whitened, please let us know before getting dental sealants.