Dental sealants refer to a thin protective coating that is applied over the chewing surfaces of teeth, as a barrier, to prevent them from decay. They are particularly used on the permanent back teeth that have deep grooves (or “fissures”). These deep grooves make the teeth more vulnerable to decay since they are known to trap in food particles and bacteria. Furthermore, because these grooves can be narrower than a single bristle on your toothbrush, they can make those surfaces harder to clean properly.
While not permanent, dental sealants can last for several years and their effectiveness in reducing the risk of decay in molars has been clinically proven. Their longevity is greatly dependent upon eating and oral hygiene habits. While fluoride helps prevent decay over the majority of a tooth’s smooth surfaces, it is less effective in the deep pits and grooves of these back teeth. Having a dental sealant in the grooved and pitted areas will provide the added protection against the buildup of plaque that will harm the teeth.
The first dental sealants will usually be recommended for your child once the first permanent (6 years) molars have erupted. Once the sealants have been applied, the teeth still require regular brushing and flossing to improve their overall health and cleanliness.