Sealants are as simple as the name implies – a protective coating that seals the chewing (occlusal) surface of the tooth to prevent bacteria from causing decay. Pre-molars and molar teeth, located way in the back of the mouth, naturally have many pits and fissures on their occlusal surface. Their shape and location make them hard to keep clean and cavity prone, especially during pre-adolescent and adolescent years. A sealant helps protect against decay on these teeth by literally filling in the cracks and providing a protective shield that bacteria and food can’t penetrate.
Sealants are best applied shortly after these teeth come in, though if a tooth has yet to be affected by decay it can be a good preventive measure for adults as well. For kids, their first molars will erupt around 6 years old, with the second molars following behind at around age 12. Once applied, a sealant can last five to ten years with regular checks by your dentist.
The process for applying sealants is an easy one. The teeth in question are thoroughly cleaned and an acid solution is applied to roughen the surface, making it easier for the sealant to adhere. Each tooth is then rinsed and thoroughly dried. Sealant is then painted directly on to the tooth and allowed to harden, sometimes with the aid of a curing light. The appointment is quick – in our office we routinely apply sealants to four teeth at a time in 30 minutes.