Brushing and flossing are great habits to keep in order to maintain strong and healthy teeth. If you want an extra level of protection, however, dental sealants are a great dental treatment. After all, brushing isn’t actually able to get to all the surfaces of your teeth, especially the ones in the back. These back molars are particularly prone to developing cavities because they have grooves and depressions where food and plaque can collect that brushing often misses. Dental sealants are thin plastic coatings acting as a barrier for the teeth, protecting them from harmful plaque and food debris.
The procedure for placing dental sealants is fairly straightforward and quick – it usually takes one appointment lasting less than an hour. The teeth must first be cleaned thoroughly, rinsed, and dried. A slightly acidic solution is then placed on them. This solution “etches” the tooth surfaces, slightly roughening them to allow the sealants to bond more securely. After this, the solution is rinsed off, and the teeth are dried again. Dental sealants are applied in liquid form and hardened using a special light. Once hardened, they become a hard plastic varnish coating on the teeth. The teeth can be used as normal again, though it will be recommended to avoid eating, drinking, and rinsing for about half an hour following the procedure.
Sealants are normally recommended for adolescents, who are at a higher risk for developing cavities. The teeth that will be treated must have fully erupted beyond the gums to receive the dental sealants. In most cases, only the back molars and premolars receive sealants, which are applied to their occlusal (chewing) surface. Though other teeth can also receive sealants, it is less common.
Patients who are treated with dental sealants should keep in mind that the treatment does not make their teeth completely immune to decay; proper oral hygiene habits, namely daily brushing and flossing, must still be kept. With good care, dental sealants can last up to ten years. Your dentist will check on their status during routine dental visits. If they have become damaged or worn, they can be replaced.