A: Dental sealants act as a barrier to prevent cavities. They are a plastic material applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth (premolars and molars) where decay occurs most often. Brushing and flossing are good with helping to remove food particles and plaque from the smooth surfaces of our teeth. But toothbrush bristles cannot clean all the way into the depressions and grooves that are found on the chewing surface of our back teeth. Sealants protect these vulnerable areas by “sealing out” food, plaque, and hopefully harmful bacteria. Sealants are not guaranteed to prevent cavities because bacteria is microscopic in size, but many studies have shown a decrease in the odds of developing cavities.
Sealants are easy for your dentist or hygienist to apply, and don’t require getting numb. The surface of the tooth is cleaned off well, and then sealant is painted onto the tooth enamel, where it bonds directly to the tooth and harden upon curing with a light. As long as the sealant remains intact, it will help the tooth surface stay protected from decay. Sealants hold up well under the force of normal chewing and may last several years before a reapplication is needed. During your regular dental visits, your dentist will check the condition of the sealants and reapply them when necessary. The likelihood of developing pit and fissure decay begins early in life, so children and teenagers are obvious candidates. But adults can benefit from sealants as well.
Information provided by Rob Swanson, DDS, Swanson Dental 2423 Willis Ave., Perry, 515-465-5170.