Tooth decay often occurs on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth. These surfaces contain pits and grooves that trap plaque, bacteria and food particles. Decay can start to form in the grooves because toothbrush bristles cannot reach into them.
A dental sealant is a plastic material that is applied to the chewing surface of a back tooth. The sealant acts as a barrier, protecting enamel by “sealing out” plaque and food.
How are sealants applied?
The teeth are first cleaned and prepared to help the sealant stick to the tooth. Next, the sealant is “painted” onto the tooth enamel, where it bonds to the tooth and hardens. Sometimes a special curing light is used to harden the sealant. Sealants are generally clear or white and cannot be seen when you smile or talk. The protection holds up well with everyday chewing and may last several years.
Who should get sealants?
Sealants are most often placed in children and teenagers, since tooth decay can start soon after teeth come in. Adults can also benefit from sealants since you never “outgrow” the risk for developing cavities. Sealants may last several years before they wear out.