Purpose of a Dental Sealant

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Tooth decay is the most prevalent oral health problem in the United States, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control state that cavities are the most common childhood disease among children between the ages of 12 and 19.

Part of the motivation to visit the dental office on a regular basis, especially for pediatric patients, is to prevent these cavities, and dental sealants can be an important part of that prophylactic care.

A dentist can apply a sealant, which is a plastic coating on the tooth, to provide an extra layer of protection against cavities.

Sealants are particularly useful for the large molars and even the premolars toward the rear of the mouth, because those teeth have more deep grooves that can harbor cavity-causing bacteria.

The dentist can complete the sealant treatment in a matter of minutes during a routine visit. After the tooth is cleaned thoroughly by a hygienist, the dentist will apply an acidic solution that creates tiny grooves in the tooth, making the tooth’s surface more suitable for adhering to the sealant. The acid is rinsed off after a few minutes and when the tooth has dried, the dentist will paint the sealant onto the tooth and “cure” or harden it.

Dental sealants are typically used for permanent teeth, but they can be used on baby teeth, if indicated. Although sealants are often used for children and teens, adults are not immune from decay and may benefit from this treatment as well.

When choosing sealants, keep in mind that this intervention is just one component of an overall cavity prevention strategy. Twice-daily brushing and daily flossing are essential, and in areas without fluoridated public water systems, supplemental fluoride treatments may also be needed.

If you’re a parent, talk to the dentist at your child’s next appointment to see if sealants might be helpful. If you’ve noticed that your own teeth seem to be cavity-prone, ask if you might benefit from this intervention as well.