Sealants are usually applied to the deep grooves and pits on the chewing surfaces of the back permanent teeth (premolars and molars) where decay occurs most often. On average, kids will start to see their first permanent molars around age six, with the last premolars coming in around age 10 or 11. During this time they are learning to brush adequately and don't always clean as well as they should. If grooves are deep enough the tooth brush bristles potentially may not be able to reach these areas. Sealants act as a barrier to these vulnerable areas by "sealing out" decay-causing bacteria and acids in plaque.
Is sealant application a complicated procedure?
Sealants are easy to apply, and it takes only a few minutes to seal each tooth. Best of all you don't need to be numb to have a sealant placed! The teeth that will be sealed are cleaned first and then the sealant is 'painted' onto the tooth enamel, where it bonds directly to the tooth and hardens. A special curing light is used to help the sealant harden.
As long as the sealant remains intact, the tooth surface will be protected from decay. Sealants hold up well under the force of normal chewing and usually last well into adulthood at which time they may fall out or wear away. During your regular dental visits, your dentist will check the condition of the sealants and adjust things if necessary.
Sealants are just for kids, right?
The likelihood of developing decay in pits and grooves begins early in life, so children and teenagers are obvious candidates. But adults can benefit from sealants as well. Ask your dentist about whether sealants can put extra power behind your prevention program.