Most cavities in children occur in places that sealants could have protected.
What is a fissure sealant?
It is a tinted or clear plastic coating which is applied to the ‘chewing’ surfaces of the back teeth of children or adolescents. It completely seals the fissures, preventing any food particles or bacteria from getting in.
Why seal against decay?
Even if your child brushes and flosses carefully, it is almost impossible to clean the deep pits and valleys on back teeth. Food and “sugar bugs” build up in these narrow grooves and pits, placing them in danger of tooth decay. Fluoride in drinking water or toothpaste, can help protect the smooth sides of the teeth, but it can’t fully protect these ‘high risk’ areas against decay. Fissure sealants can!
How is it done?
Sealants can be applied by any of our clinical staff in a single visit. The tooth is isolated from saliva (which can be very difficult in young children with wiggly tongues!), washed and dried, then “painted” with sealant, and finally allowing it to harden using a blue light. Several teeth can be sealed in one appointment. We sometimes recommend the use of nitrous oxide to minimize gagging and anxiety. No injections or drilling are needed.
The glassy smooth surface is easier to keep clean with a toothbrush, and in no way affects the normal chewing function of the teeth.
Studies over many years have shown that sealants greatly reduce tooth decay and the need for fillings.
When should it be done?
It’s best to get the teeth sealed as soon they have fully erupted. Partially erupted teeth (teeth with part of the surface still under the gums) are difficult to seal properly as the gums produce small amounts of fluid that keeps the tooth surface wet and the sealant may not “stick” to the tooth.
Do the teeth need to be cleaned as often?
Yes! Just because the molar teeth have been sealed against decay doesn’t mean sticky, sweet foods cannot harm the teeth. Sealants can wear down or bits break off, allowing decay to progress under the sealant.
Sealants need regular checking and repairs by the dentist. More Sealant FAQs
- Pit and fissure decay accounts for 80 to 90 percent of cavities in permanent back teeth and 44 percent in baby teeth. Since these are the areas that sealants protect, it is easy to see why sealants benefit children.
- Sealant placement in children and adolescents has shown a reduction of cavities incidence of 86 percent after one year and 58 percent after four years. With appropriate follow-up care, the success rate of sealants may be 80-90 percent even after a decade.
- Sealants cost less than half of what a filling costs, a good value in view of the decay protection offered.
- The teeth most at risk of decay, and therefore, most in need of sealants are the six-year and twelve-year molars.
- Teeth are at greatest risk of decay when they first erupt into the mouth. The sooner the sealant is applied, the better.
- Sealants last longest if a child has good oral hygiene, visits the dentist regularly and avoids biting on hard objects such as ice cubes.