If you are prone to getting cavities (certain people have genetic predispositions) or suffer from weak enamel, your dentist may recommend placing dental sealants on the biting surfaces of your molars. This is a plastic material that basically works to shield the teeth from the corrosive effects of oral bacteria, and can be instrumental in the prevention of cavities and general tooth decay. Since the biting surfaces are exposed to the highest concentrations of food bacteria, they are more susceptible to the effects of decay than the front or sides.
Why Dental Sealants are Important
Your molars are used for chewing, which is why they are typically targeted first for sealant applications. Given their specific function, the shape of your back teeth are different as well; instead of being flat, the surface is comprised a number of grooves and pits that help maximize biting force.
One downside, however, is that these pits and fissures can be difficult to clean thoroughly. Even with regular brushing and oral hygiene habits, stubborn food particles can be difficult to remove. The longer food bacteria sit in the mouth, the more damage it does to enamel and the surface of teeth. The role of dental sealants is to prevent germs and bacteria from coming into contact with the grooves, without interfering with the molars’ normal function.
Who are the Best Candidates?
Although sealants can be used on any patient, children and teenagers represent the largest percentage of individuals who receive them. The main reason being that most youth tend to develop cavities on the surfaces of their molars more so than anywhere else, and the permanent types (typically develop at age 12 after the first set) are best served by this oral treatment.
The great thing about dental sealants is the insertion process is very non-invasive, which is a huge benefit for children in particular, as procedures requiring drilling and removal of teeth can be hard to implement on young patients. After cleaning the teeth, the dentist will apply a special gel to the surface and let it sit for a few seconds. The teeth are then cleaned again before the sealant is brushed on. The curing process is quick, generally only taking a minute when dentists use artificial light to aid in the hardening of the sealant. Most modern dental sealants are made to resemble the color of the patient’s teeth, and can last upwards of ten year with full effectiveness.