“Sealants are essentially a protective coating that is applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth,” says Dr. Tracy Davis. “These back molars are where we most often find decay because they can be harder to reach when brushing and flossing.”
Good brushing and flossing techniques are great at removing food particles and plaque from the smooth surfaces of your teeth. However, your molars have deep grooves where food particles can get stuck. This can lead to decay and cavities. Sealants help seal those areas, keeping food and plaque from causing damage.
“Sealants should only be applied professionally at a dentist office.” says Dr. Nick Matthews. “At your appointment, we will clean out the grooves on the chewing surface of your molars and place the sealant directly onto your tooth enamel. It bonds to your tooth and hardens, protecting the enamel from the plaque and bacteria that lead to decay.”
Children and teens have a high likelihood of developing decay in their molars and premolars and are the best candidates for sealants. But sealants are also an option for adults who don’t have decay or fillings in their molars.
“It is recommended that children have sealants applied as soon as their permanent molars and premolars come in,” says Dr. Davis. “We know that the ages between six and 14 tend to have a higher risk of developing cavities, so sealants are recommended as an added measure to protect the teeth.”
In rare cases, sealants may also be recommended for baby teeth. This will typically only happen if the baby teeth have very deep grooves or depressions and the child is at high risk of decay. Your dentist will let you know if he or she recommends sealants on the primary teeth.
“The baby teeth play a very important role in maintaining spacing for permanent teeth,” says Dr. Matthews. “So it’s crucial that they stay as healthy as possible. If they are lost due to decay too early, the spacing of the permanent teeth can alter, leading to expensive orthodontic treatment in the future.”
Sealants can last as long as 10 years, but patients need to maintain proper oral care routines and maintain regular checkups to check the sealants for wear or chips. As long as there is no decay or fillings needed, your dentist can replace your sealants as needed.
The American Dental Association has also recommended that sealants be used on carious, but non-cavitated, lesions to reduce the risk of the lesion progressing.
Sealants fill the grooves and pits of your teeth to help protect the teeth from decay. However, sealants should never take the place of a strong oral care routine that includes daily use of fluoride, brushing and flossing. However, they are an excellent tool in a preventative dental health regimen.
If you’re ready to seal out tooth decay, schedule an appointment with Excel Dental today to learn more.