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What is a sealant?
A sealant is a clear or white material that is applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth. It acts as a shield to protect the chewing surfaces from cavities.
The chewing surfaces of the back teeth have very deep pits and grooves where sugary foods can adhere. These grooves are so narrow that a single tooth brush bristle can NOT reach inside to clean them. Only sealants can prevent decay in these areas.
Who should have sealants? Everyone!
Sealants are applied to selected primary (baby) molars (which are in the mouth until age 12-13 years) and to all permanent (adult) molars. Ideally it is best to apply the sealant as soon as possible after the tooth has erupted.
Newly erupted teeth are more vulnerable to decay because they have not had the benefit of topical application of fluoride. Most unsealed molars will develop occlusal decay within 1-2 years.
How are sealants applied?
First the tooth is cleaned.
Secondly the tooth is isolated with cotton rolls and then the chewing surface is roughened with an acidic gel we call “tooth shampoo” to help the sealant adhere to the tooth.
Third the sealant is applied to the chewing surface of the tooth, and then hardened with a bright light for 20 seconds. The tooth is now protected with the sealant.
It’s as simple as 1, 2, 3! The risk of tooth decay is significantly reduced and may even be eliminated. However the child still needs to floss as sealants do not protect “in between” teeth.