Dental sealants are used to prevent teeth from sustaining decay-induced damage. Here is a more detailed explanation of this type of dental treatment.
How does a dental sealant work?
When particles of food are not completely removed from the teeth, bacterial plaque ends up feeding on them. The acid the bacteria produce as a result of this process then erodes the tooth enamel, causing decay and cavities. A sealant serves as a protective barrier which prevents both food particles and bacterial plaque from getting stuck inside the grooves of a tooth. This, in turn, prevents them from damaging the tooth structure.
Which teeth are suitable for sealing?
Sealants are normally used only on premolars and molars. This is because these are the ones that are most susceptible to decay. The bristles of a standard toothbrush are not long or sturdy enough to remove food and bacterial plaque from the fissures and pits that are found in these type of teeth. Sealants can be used to stop bacteria from accessing and multiplying in these hollows, and thus help to prevent them from causing decay.
When should dental sealants be applied?
Dental sealants are usually most effective when applied soon after a child's permanent molars have emerged (that is, long before bacterial plaque have begun to damage these teeth). However, adults can still benefit from this dental treatment, provided the teeth that they wish to have sealed are in good condition (i.e. do not have any cavities).
How is a dental sealant applied?
The process of having a sealant placed on a tooth is painless and non-invasive. Before they begin, the dentist will clean all of the teeth that are to be sealed, so as to ensure that no bacteria or food particles get stuck underneath the sealant.
After the teeth have been cleaned and thoroughly dried, a special solution will be applied to them, to make their surfaces slightly rougher; this will help the sealant to bond properly to the teeth. The sealant material is then brushed on. Depending on what type of sealant the dentist has selected, it might harden and dry on its own, or it may need to be hardened by a dental curing light.
Whilst the sealant will wear down and need to be replaced eventually, it should last for at least ten years or so (unless, of course, the treated tooth sustains any form of severe impact).
For more information, contact a local dentist.