Sealants are a safe and painless way of protecting your children’s teeth from dental decay. A sealant is a protective plastic coating, which is applied to the biting surfaces of the back teeth. The sealant forms a hard shield that keeps food and bacteria from getting into the tiny grooves in the teeth and causing decay.
Sealants are only applied to the back teeth – the molars and premolars – these are the teeth that have the pits and fissures on their biting surfaces. Your dentist will advise you which teeth should be sealed after they have examined them and checked whether the fissures are deep enough for sealing to be beneficial. Some teeth naturally form with deep grooved which will need to be sealed, others with shallow ones which will not need sealing.
The process of sealing is usually quick and straightforward, taking only a few minutes per tooth. The tooth is thoroughly cleaned, prepared with the special solution, and dried. The liquid sealant is then applied and allowed to set hard – usually by shining an ultraviolet light on it.
The procedure is totally pain-free, and the teeth do not feel any different afterwards.
Sealants are often applied as soon as the permanent teeth start to come through. This is usually between 6 and 7 years of age. The rest are usually sealed as soon as they appear which can be anytime between 11 and 14 years of age.
Sealants usually last for many years, but your dentist will want to check them regularly to make sure that the seal is still intact. They can wear over time, and sometimes it is necessary to add or replace some sealant to be sure that no decay can start underneath them.