Dental sealants are among the most effective preventative dental treatments. They are used to prevent tooth decay, the leading cause mostly preventable of tooth loss. The treatment is time-tested; it has been successfully used for decades.
The principle behind dental sealants is very simple, but effective. We know that tooth decay is caused by acids in bacteria. The bacteria feed on leftover food we consume, and excrete acids that damage enamel of our teeth. We try to prevent it every day with good dental hygiene – brushing, flossing, and using mouthwash.
However, not all spots can be effectively reached. Our teeth are full of little pits, grooves and recesses that make it incredibly easy for various small pockets of bacteria to develop. These fissures are difficult to clean properly. Toothbrush bristles are often too thick to reach into these small surfaces and cavities can easily develop.
That is why dentists will sometimes recommend placing dental sealants onto the teeth. Most commonly these are placed on molars and premolars. In children who are prone to decay, these are placed as soon as their permanent teeth erupt. Teenagers are also great candidates for this kind of treatment.
Sealants are made of plastic material that is applied to the teeth. Plastic resin is most commonly used, although glass ionomer materials are also available. Such sealants seem to be more effective, but do not last as long. This resin coating then fills up these pits and fissures, meaning there are no nooks where bacteria can develop and fester. Teeth become smoother and easier to clean, which means that occurrence of
cavities is markedly reduced. Put simply, dental sealants are another line of defense against caries.
While fluoride represents a chemical barricade of sorts, dental sealants physically block caries from
The procedure is usually painless and does not require the administration of local anesthetics. The
application of sealants is done in a single visit. First the surface of the teeth needs to be very
thoroughly cleaned and polished in order for the resin to adhere properly. The tooth will then be
dried and etched. Acid etching allows for better and longer-lasting adherence of the resin material
and the surface of the tooth. The tooth (or teeth) is then thoroughly washed, cleaned and dried
After that, the dental hygienist will apply the resin to the tooth and either leave it to cure on its own,
or use a special UV curing light for about half a minute to speed up the curing process. It is important
to prevent saliva from coming into contact with teeth that will be sealed, as it can cause the resin to
fail prematurely. Dental dams are sometimes used to that end.
After the sealant has been applied and dried, the dentist will check if the layer is adequately thick
and whether it impacts normal dental occlusion.
Dental sealants do not last forever. Usually they will last for at least five years, but many last much
longer – 10 years is the norm. Your dentist will always inspect the condition of sealants and
recommend a re-application if necessary. Dental sealants are surprisingly sturdy – they last for quite
a while, withstanding huge chewing forces exerted by your molars.
Dental sealants are very good and effective, but cannot be used on tooth with existing fillings or
caries in its later stages. Early decay can be arrested (stopped) with timely application of dental
sealant. Patients with orthodontic appliances can use these sealants, too.
Dental sealants reduce the occurrence of dental caries of molars by as much as 80 percent. The rate
of caries among children with sealants is three times lower than that of children without dental
Patients with healthy teeth, good hygiene and low consumption of sugary foods and foods rich in
carbohydrates usually do not need dental sealants.
The benefits of dental sealants are most obvious in children and teenagers, whose teeth are young
and still developing. That is why this treatment is mostly geared towards them. However, adults can
also benefit from this treatment, provided they do not suffer from advanced caries (cavities) and do
not have any fillings in their teeth.
Overall, dental sealants are a very effective way of halting the progression of dental caries, especially
if applied in the early age. Even though it is underutilized compared to some other methods (fluoride
treatments), it is well worth your time and money.