If you or your child is prone to cavities, your dentist may recommend you consider protecting their teeth from decay with a dental sealant. Sealants are clear, white or slightly tinted plastic coatings “painted” onto the surface of a tooth, and penetrate the deep pits and fissures that are prone to decay. Sealants are most often used on the biting surface of posterior teeth (molars), and serve as a barrier to the acids and plaque that can penetrate the tooth's porous surface. While not a full-proof system, they can provide additional assistance in keeping cavities at bay, and are typically used in the care of a child's primary teeth. Adults can also benefit from sealants if they are particularly prone to decay, as could a teenager with permanent teeth that have already erupted.
To prepare for a dental sealant, a dentist will first clean any tooth being sealed, and prepare it for the sealant material by etching it with a mild acid solution. This solution acts as an abrasive that roughens the surface of the tooth and allows the sealant to create a strong bond to the tooth. After this step, the sealant would be lightly brushed onto the tooth. There are a variety of materials that can be used to seal the tooth, and each has its own way of hardening. Most are hardened by exposing the liquid plastic to a blue spectrum light that “cures” the plastic, and others harden on their own in a few minutes.
Dental sealants can be an effective way to prevent dental caries (cavities), but again, are not full proof. They can anywhere from five to ten years depending on care, installation success and bite stressors.
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