What Are Dental Sealants?

Sealants are plastic coatings that are used to seal the “cracks” or fissures and grooves of back teeth. These grooves are located on the occlusal or chewing surfaces of molars and premolars and are areas where bacteria and plaque can accumulate and cause decay. Some may wonder, why should I have sealants placed if I brush my teeth? Brushing alone is less effective at keeping plaque and bacteria away because the grooves can be very deep and may be narrower than a single bristle of a toothbrush, making these areas very hard to keep 100 percent clean.

Dental sealants are recommended for children aged six through 14, due to the inability of this age group to effectively clean and care for their teeth. However, adults can have sealants placed as well. Sealants are easy to apply and literally seal off the grooves in the teeth to make a smooth surface so that plaque and bacteria have no surfaces or grooves to adhere to.

What to expect when having a sealant placed:

  • The area will be examined and approved for a sealant. Teeth that may have the beginning stage of a cavity will not be approved for a sealant.
  • The tooth will be cleaned thoroughly so no bacteria or plaque are trapped under the sealant, which could cause a cavity because the area is sealed off and a toothbrush will not be able to brush the area again.
  • An acid etch will be applied to the tooth, which makes the tooth chalky white and allows the sealant material to adhere and interlock into the tooth.
  • After the etch is rinsed away, the sealant material will be applied and flow into the fissures of the teeth.
  • Certain brands of sealant materials will cure different ways, but a common way to cure the sealant (or make the material transform from liquid to hard) is to light cure. A bright light will shine on the material for around thirty seconds and cause it to harden.
  • The last step is to add fluoride to the areas that were sealed in order to re-administer the fluoride rich layer that was taken away when the acid etch was applied to the tooth.

Will my teeth feel weird when I have sealants placed?

Sealants may feel strange at first, especially when biting down, however they should not feel like they alter the way you naturally bite or occlude. If it feels like “rocks in your teeth”, tell the hygienist so that he/she can make an adjustment because they may be over-filled.

Sealants are not permanent and are expected to last between three to five years, however many sealants last for years after the expected time frame; up to ten years. Take action to save your smile from decay and ask your dentist or dental hygienist here at Rochester Dental Health about sealants today!

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