Protecting your teeth with daily dental care is a great start. But if you’re looking to step up your dental health and arm yourself against decay and infection, sealants are a highly effective way to do so. Sealants – a thin coating placed over the teeth – form an extra protective barrier that keeps food from getting trapped between them and in the grooves. This reduces the risk of plaque build-up and cavities.
Sealants are not a replacement for brushing and flossing, but they are very effective when placed over the back teeth. Molar sealants can reduce the risk of cavities by up to 80%!
When you get a sealant, tooth-colored acrylic coating is painted onto tooth surfaces, effectively “sealing” their grooves and those between other teeth. This barrier protects enamel from acidic foods, sugar, and other harmful substances. Because sealants get into the nooks and crannies of the tooth, they fill difficult spots that routine brushing and flossing cannot reach.
Sealants are a painless and relatively quick procedure, taking around five minutes per tooth.
First, the surface of the target tooth is thoroughly cleaned to ensure the sealant will bond tightly. Then, the dentist spreads etching gel over the sealant area, acting as a primer that helps the sealant bond. The etching gel is acidic – so if it gets on your tongue, it might taste bitter – but isn’t harmful. Most importantly, its acidic nature means that it kills bacteria hiding at the bottom of your teeth.
Next, your dentist washes off the etching gel and blow dries the area. The tooth will look similar to etched glass at this point, which is what helps the sealant bond to the area. Finally, the dentist applies the sealant into the grooves of the teeth using a small brush or syringe (though not the kind that pokes through skin). The job is finished up with a curing light that hardens the sealant, which sets in about one minute’s time.
Once the sealant has set, the dentist evaluates your bite. They’ll ask you to bite down as you normally would to make sure the thickness of the sealant doesn’t offset anything. If it is, the dentist gently buffs down the sealant. The whole process takes about five or six minutes per tooth!
Who Should Get Sealants?
Sealants are recommended for children and teenagers who struggle to reach cracks and depressions in their molars. Adults, too, can benefit from having sealants put over their trouble spots. If you’re concerned about your ability to brush and floss difficult areas, ask your dentist if sealants are a good option for you.