Dental sealant is a thin, plastic coating painted on the chewing surfaces of teeth, usually the back teeth (premolars and molars) to protect and prevent tooth decay. The chewing surfaces of the molar and premolar teeth have grooves or fissures that make them vulnerable to decay. The fissures can be deep, are difficult to clean, and can be narrower than even a single bristle of a toothbrush. The sealant quickly bonds into the grooves and depressions of the teeth, forming a protective shield over the enamel of each tooth.
Because of the likelihood of developing decay in the depressions and grooves of the premolars and molars, children and teenagers are candidates for sealants. Typically, children should get sealants on their permanent molars and premolars as soon as these teeth come in. In this way, the sealants can protect the teeth through the cavity-prone years of ages 6 to 14. Adults without decay or fillings in their molars can also benefits from sealants. Applying sealant is a simple and painless process.
Process of Applying Sealant:
- The teeth that are to be sealed are completely cleaned
- Each tooth is then dried, and cotton or another absorbent material is put around the tooth to keep it dry
- An acid solution is put on the chewing surfaces of the teeth to roughen them up, which helps the sealant bond to teeth.
- The teeth are then rinsed and dried
- The sealant is then pained onto the tooth enamel, where it bonds directly to the tooth and hardens. Sometimes a special curing light is used to help the sealant harden.
Once the dental sealant has hardened, it becomes a hard plastic varnish coating. Dental sealants can be clear, white or have a slight tint depending upon the dental sealant used. Sealants can protect the teeth from decay for up to 10 years, but they need to be checked for chipping or wearing at regular dental check-ups. If necessary, the dentist can replace sealants on teeth.
Many insurance companies cover the cost of sealants but usually only for patients younger than 18. Check with your dental insurance carrier to determine if sealants are covered under your plan.