What are they? Why do we need them?
A dental sealant is a thin but strong resin coating that is painted onto teeth to provide a barrier against acid attack. Sealants in dentistry are mostly used to cover deep grooves in the chewing surfaces of teeth, especially for at risk molar teeth. These natural grooves in teeth are often narrower than your toothbrush bristles, so they can’t be cleaned effectively!
The first adult molar (back) tooth to appear in the mouth is the 6 year old molar, usually appearing around the age of 6. Another critical time is 11-12 years of age when the 12 year old molars arrive. All of these teeth need to last 90 years or more! To be most effective, a sealant should be placed shortly after the tooth appears in the mouth.
Teeth are under constant attack by acidic foods and drinks, and acid produced by plaque bacteria.
Acids cause damage below the tooth surface, often gaining access via the natural grooves and pits in teeth, thus causing microscopic holes in teeth. If the acid damage continues over a long period of time, the tooth becomes so fragile that a hole forms in the tooth, thus needing a filling. Sealants can often prevent this.
The procedure for placing sealants does not require numbing. The tooth surface is thoroughly cleaned and kept completely dry while the sealant is placed. The sealant is a flowable material which is painted into the deep grooves with a tiny disposable brush. Next a special light is used to harden the sealant. You can eat on the new sealant straight away.