Sealants and oral health

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: May 24th, 2007
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Just when you thought regular brushing and flossing would protect your pearly whites, it turns out tooth decay may still be a lurking menace. That’s because toothbrush bristles can’t reach every nook and cranny of the tooth surface to extract food and plaque. Dental sealants may be needed to protect these hard to clean areas by sealing out plaque and food particles.

Dental sealant is a plastic material applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth, premolars and molars. This plastic resin bonds with the tooth enamel to fill the tiny depressions and grooves of the chewing surfaces of the back teeth, acting as a barrier to plaque and acids.

Sealants are easy for your dentist to apply, and sealing each tooth takes only a few minutes. The teeth that will be sealed are first cleaned. Then the chewing surfaces are roughened with an acid solution to help the sealant adhere to the tooth. The sealant is “painted” onto the tooth enamel, where it bonds with the roughened tooth and hardens. A special curing light may be used to help harden some sealant types.

As long as the sealant remains intact, the tooth surface will be protected from decay. Sealants usually last several years and they hold up well under the pressure of normal chewing.

The likelihood of developing decay begins early in life, so children and teenagers are obvious candidates for sealants. But sealants aren’t just for kids; adults can benefit, too.