A dental sealant is a thin plastic coating that is applied to the back teeth to seal off the pits and fissures and to help prevent food from settling into the teeth. This type of sealant can last up to 10 years before needing to be reapplied and can be extremely helpful in preventing tooth decay and streamlining a dental care routine. Read on to learn more about dental sealants, how they are applied, and what the benefits of having a dental sealant applied are.
Dental sealants are applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth because these are the areas where tooth decay most often occurs. Children and teens with permanent teeth benefit particularly well from the application of dental sealants because dental sealants are most effective on teeth that have just recently erupted, and they run a higher risk for developing tooth decay. The process of applying a dental sealant to the back molars is very straightforward. First, the dentist performs a thorough cleaning and then places a special gel on the surfaces receiving application for a few seconds. After the gel is applied, the teeth are washed and dried. Then the sealant is painted onto the teeth, and the dentist may shine a light on the teeth to help the sealant harden. It takes about a minute for the sealant to form a protective shield.
The molars are the most susceptible to cavities and plaque accumulation because of the anatomy of their chewing surfaces. They do not receive the same protection from saliva that other teeth do. Because of this, the primary advantage of having dental sealants applied to teeth is a major decrease in the likelihood of developing cavities. Dental sealants also greatly simplify dental care, making tooth brushing much easier.
The benefits of dental sealants are so far-reaching that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Healthy People 2020 includes increasing the proportion of children and teens who have received dental sealants as one of its national health objectives.
Dental sealants typically offer teeth protection for up to ten years but should be inspected for chips or wear at regular dental check-ups. During this time it is still highly important to fortify your teeth with fluoride during regular dental care. Many insurance companies actually cover the cost of sealants, making them more accessible than you think. Talk to your dentist if you are considering having dental sealants applied to your own teeth or a child’s teeth.