A sealant is a tough, plastic material designed to bond with tooth enamel. Clear or tooth-colored sealants are routinely applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth. This invisible barrier reduces the risk of tooth decay by keeping food and plaque out of cavity prone areas. The procedure is pain free and non-invasive.
Daily brushing, flossing, and fluorides form an effective team in the fight against dental disease. Now, dentists are also using sealants to further protect your child's teeth from decay and to prevent him or her from ever experiencing the discomfort of a toothache.

What Are Pits And Fissures?
During normal tooth development, deep grooves form in the back teeth. These grooves are called fissures. A pit forms where two fissures cross. These pits and fissures fill up with food and bacteria. Because toothbrush bristles are too thick to reach into the pits and fissures, the food and bacteria cannot be easily removed by brushing, flossing, or rinsing.
The protective enamel layer on the tooth is particularly thin in these pits and fissures. Bacteria acts on the food to form strong acids that weaken and destroy the tooth enamel. Decay starts, and a cavity is formed. In order to save the tooth, it must be repaired by a dentist.

Why Sealants Are Important?
The use of fluorides have dramatically reduced the incidence of tooth decay. However, fluorides are most effective in protecting the smooth surfaces of the teeth. Their use is limited in the pit and fissure area. Sealants provide additional protection by shielding these hard to reach grooves from decay-causing agents.

When Sealants Should Be Used?
Tooth decay occurs much faster in children than in adults. Sealants should be applied to a child's teeth as soon as possible, before decay has had a chance to set in.

How Are Sealants Applied?
Sealants are applied quickly and easily by either the dentist or dental hygienist. There is no discomfort and no need for anesthesia.
First, the teeth are thoroughly cleaned to remove debris and bacteria. Then, the surfaces to be sealed are chemically treated to etch the tooth for better bonding. The liquid sealant is then painted on the surface of the tooth, where it flows into the pits and fissures. Some sealants harden with air exposure; others require ultraviolet or visible light. A hand held "light wand" may be used for this purpose.

How Long Do Sealants Last?
Sealants usually last many years. The abrasive nature of some foods, like ice, hard candy, or sticky foods can dislodge or damage a sealant. When this happens, the sealant can be reapplied to the tooth.

Do Sealants Need to be Reapplied?
When the sealant is applied, finger­like strands penetrate the pits and fissures of the tooth enamel. Although the sealant cannot be seen with the naked eye, the protective effect of these strands continues. 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 several years before a reapplication is needed.As a result, it may be several years before another application of sealant is needed. Reapplication of the sealant will continue the protection against decay and my save the time and expense of having a tooth restored. Your dentist will check sealants during regular dental visits to determine if reapplication is necessary.

Are Sealants only for kids?
The likelihood of developing pit and fissure decay begins early in life, so children and teenagers are obvious candidates. But adults can also benefit from sealants as well.

Tooth Decay And Sealants
If the decay process has already started, it is too late to apply sealants as a preventive measure. Decay will not start under a fissure sealant because the decay causing organisms are deprived of the food and oxygen they need to flourish. Therefore, some teeth may not be good candidates for sealing while others may be fine.

The use of sealants substantially reduces the risk of tooth decay by keeping food and bacteria out of cavity prone areas. In combination with careful brushing, flossing, and fluorides, sealants are an effective step towards a lifetime of excellent dental health.