Sealants are tooth colored, thin coatings that are “painted” onto the chewing surface of back teeth to make it easier to clean and less cavity prone. Let’s start with understanding why the chewing surfaces of our molars are so difficult to clean.
The chewing surface of baby molars in most children is relatively smooth with very shallow grooves, making it quite easy to clean.
Permanent molars are another story. They are formed with steeper cusps that chew food effectively, and unfortunately, deep grooves that are nearly impossible to adequately clean, often resulting in early decay.
The grooves are difficult to clean because they can be very narrow (less than a tooth brush bristle) and quite deep. This allows saliva and sugary foods to collect in these grooves. The result is acid that makes decay form easily since children, and their well-intentioned parents, can’t clean them completely.
By placing a thin, flowable, tooth-colored sealant over the chewing surface, the chewing surface is now a bit smoother, the groove is filled in and is protected from decay-causing acids from the mouth. While sealants are not 100% effective, it can be a child’s best defense against early decay.
Placement is very easy. First of all, NO anesthetic is necessary!
The chewing surface of the tooth is thoroughly cleaned with pumice or an air polisher. The tooth is then kept clean and dry with two cotton rolls while “blue soap”, a mild etchant, is painted over the area to be sealed.
After 20 seconds, the etchant is rinsed completely off, the tooth is dried, and the sealant is brushed on with a tiny brush. A curing light is used to cure the sealant in 10 seconds. That’s it! Sometimes we may adjust the bite a bit, but sealants are made to “wear in” in 1-2 days so that is rarely necessary.
Have other questions regarding dental sealants for your child? Be sure to ask the dental hygienist at your child’s next cleaning appointment, or give us a call today!