Good dental habits, such as brushing and flossing, are great for keeping teeth clean and healthy. Unfortunately, toothbrushes and floss simply are unable to reach all the surfaces of the teeth, especially the tricky grooves and depressions of the back molars. While fluoride and products like mouthwash can help to protect teeth, debris and plaque can still accumulate and eventually lead to decay. For extra protection for your teeth, dental sealants are a good option.
Sealants are a thin plastic coating that is usually placed on the chewing surface of the back teeth – the molars and premolars. The sealants fill in the grooves of the tooth surfaces and cover them, preventing plaque and debris from collecting and keeping the teeth protected.
Dental sealants are usually used for adolescents who are at a higher risk of cavities than adults. The teeth must have fully erupted beyond the gums to have sealants placed. Other permanent teeth (besides the molars and premolars) can also receive sealants, though this is less common.
To place dental sealants, the teeth receiving them will first be thoroughly cleaned. They will be rinsed and dried before an acidic solution is placed on them. This solution creates small microscopic areas and a slightly rougher surface, helping the sealants to attach better to the tooth. Once the tooth has been dried again, the dental sealants will be placed onto the teeth in liquid form. They are hardened using a special light. After the dental sealants have completely hardened and dried, they become a hard plastic varnish coating, and the teeth can be used as normal again.
It’s important to remember that teeth that have been treated with dental sealants are not immune to dental problems. They must still be brushed regularly, and flossing should still be a habit. Sealants should last for several years, but if they should sustain any damage, they can be replaced. Fluoride is still an important part of oral health even after dental sealants have been placed. This mineral helps to strengthen all of the teeth overall and keep them protected from decay.