For good oral health, brushing and flossing are excellent habits to keep. However, it’s difficult to reach every nook and cranny of all your teeth. The back teeth (the molars) can be especially difficult to reach and, because they have a rough, uneven surface, leftover food and plaque can easily collect on them and cause cavities. To protect these vulnerable teeth and keep them clean, dental sealants are a great solution. These create a clear, plastic varnish over the teeth, literally “sealing” them off.
Leftover food particles and plaque produce acids that damage the tooth enamel. When left on the teeth for long periods of time, they can cause holes called cavities. Sealants fill in the nooks and crannies of the teeth where debris and plaque can easily collect. They create a barrier between the tooth surface and damaging substances, protecting the teeth and making them easier to clean. Both children and adults can get sealants, but they are usually recommended for children after their molars have erupted.
The procedure for applying sealants is quick and painless. First, your dentist will thoroughly clean and dry the teeth being treated. An acidic gel will then be applied on the teeth to slightly roughen up the tooth surface. This is called etching, and it helps to strengthen the bond between the tooth and the sealant. The gel will then be rinsed off, and the teeth will be dried again. The sealant is painted onto the teeth and cured (hardened) using a special blue light. The teeth can be used as normal once the sealants have hardened, but you will be advised to avoid eating, drinking, or rinsing for at least 30 minutes directly following the procedure to allow for a stronger bond.
There are no known side effects to dental sealants besides any possible allergies a patient may have.
Dental sealants can last several years and can be reapplied, if needed. Your dentist will check on their condition during routine checkups.
Dr. Thaer Al Azzawi graduated from MSA University in 2010 and practiced dentistry overseas for several years before immigrating to the United States. He then graduated from Rutgers School of Dental Medicine with Awards for Excellence in 2015 with awards for excellence. His professional affiliations include the ADA, TDA and GHDS.