Sealants are a plastic coating that is applied over the surface of the teeth. They create a seal between the tooth and decay-causing bacterias as well as create a smooth surface that is easy to clean.
Sealants are a great way to protect your teeth from decay. The chewing surface of molars and premolars are the most common to have sealants applied to them as they are the most difficult to clean properly and have a greater risk of developing decay. Teeth with deep grooves will also require sealants as bacteria can get stuck in the grooves and may be missed by the bristles of a toothbrush, allowing decay to occur.
Teeth are most susceptible to decay during the first year after they have come in which is why most dentists will apply a sealant to the permanent molars once they have come in. Primary (baby) molars do not require a sealant unless it is recommended by the dentist due to a high risk of decay.
If a filling is present or decay has already started, a sealant is not effective. Sealants are used to prevent decay and a filling may be required if decay is present and progressing.
During the application of a sealant, the tooth that is to be sealed is cleaned thoroughly and surrounded by cotton to keep the area dry. Your dentist or hygienist will then apply a special solution to the enamel to help the sealant bond to the tooth. The tooth will then be rinsed and dried and the sealant material will be painted onto the enamel. Depending on the material of the sealant, it will either automatically harden, or be cured with a special curing light. Sealants are either white or the color of the tooth.
Although sealants are durable and long lasting, avoiding eating ice cubes, hard candy, and sticky foods is recommended to ensure the sealant stays in place.
Regular visits to the dentist and brushing and flossing twice a day is still required with sealants for healthy teeth and gums.