How Dental Sealants prevent Tooth Decay

Updated at: Feb 23, 2017
How Dental Sealants prevent Tooth Decay

Dental sealants are effective in preventing tooth decay especially in the chewing surfaces. Sealant can last for years together and can also be reapplied when required.

Dr Poonam Sachdev
Dental HealthWritten by: Dr Poonam SachdevPublished at: Dec 03, 2012

At times your dentist may place a plastic coating on the chewing (occlusal) surface of the permanent back teeth (the molars and premolars). This plastic coating is known as sealant and it helps to protect the teeth from decay.

Why are dental sealants used on teeth?

The chewing (occlusal) surface of the permanent back teeth (the molars and premolars) has grooves or "fissures." Food particles get deposited in the narrow grooves and it can be difficult to clean them as the fissures can be deep and narrower than even a single bristle of a toothbrush. Plaque (a sticky substance that is formed when bacteria present in the mouth get deposited along with saliva, food particles and other natural substances on the surface of the teeth) gets accumulated in them. The bacteria in plaque break the sugar (carbohydrate) in food and lead to formation of acid in the mouth and can lead to tooth decay if it is not removed. The dental sealants protect the grooved and pitted areas by creating a smooth surface by covering the fissured area.

When are dental sealants applied?

In children a dentist may apply sealant as soon as the molar teeth come fully into the mouth (erupt) to protect them from caries. Application of dental sealant on the chewing (occlusal) surfaces of these teeth helps to protect the tooth from caries.

Can dental sealants be used only on the chewing surface of molar and premolar permanent teeth?

Dental sealants are mostly used to cover the chewing (occlusal) surfaces of the back permanent teeth (the molars and premolars) as they have grooves or pits. The sealant helps to protect these teeth for decay. They may be placed on other teeth if they have grooves or pits.

Can dental sealants be used on teeth of adults?

Yes sealants can be placed on teeth of adults as well. But they are used less often in adults. They are used in adults if they have deep grooves and fissures that do not already have fillings or dental sealants.

What do dental sealants look like?

Various types of sealant are present. They can be clear, white or have a slight tint depending on the type of dental sealant that is used.

How are dental sealants placed?

Your dentist will first clean your teeth with a paste and brush, then rinse and dry your tooth/teeth. An acidic solution will be placed on the tooth to make a fine rougher surface than the surrounding tooth enamel (this rough surface promotes the dental sealant to attach to the tooth). After drying the tooth your dentist will place the liquid dental sealant on the tooth and it is hardened by using a light. After the sealant hardens on the tooth you can chew on the tooth again.

How long does a dental sealant last?

Dental sealants have been proven to be effective in preventing decay on chewing (occlusal) surfaces. They can last for years and can be reapplied if needed.

Is fluoride needed after dental sealant is placed?

Yes, as the sealants protect only the surface they are applied on where as fluoride protects all the surfaces of the tooth from decay and cavities.




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