A: Sealants are a liquid coating a dentist applies to protect the pits and fissures of teeth. Back teeth in particular have pits and fissures because those teeth are designed for crushing and chewing food. The uneven terrain of those teeth is particularly vulnerable to the development of cavities. The good news, though, is that if cavities have not developed by the time a person is in his or her early 20s, it’s not likely they will. So it’s for the younger person that sealants can be useful.
The procedure is perfectly painless — no needles and no drilling. The dentist will surround the tooth he or she is working on with cotton balls and dry the tooth. The dentist will then apply a dilute acid liquid or gel that is used to etch slightly into the enamel. Over the etched area the dentist will apply a liquid plastic that will seep into the etched surface, attach to the enamel and harden. Some sealants harden by themselves in less than a minute. Others harden after being exposed to ultra-violet light for a few seconds. The resulting seal prevents bacteria from getting into the protected pit or fissure. Talk with your dentist about whether you or your children might be candidates for sealants.
Information provided by Norwalk Family Dentistry, 1101 Chatham Ave., 256-9000.