If you’ve recently had a dental procedure, you may have received a sealant treatment. It is a quick and easy procedure that many patients don’t know much about. Sealants are thin plastic coatings that are painted onto the surface of the tooth that help to reduce tooth decay and protect the underlying tooth.
Once sealants are placed, they quickly bond with the surface of the tooth. This plastic coating helps to protect the enamel that covers the tooth on the chewing and grinding surfaces. This process is usually done on the flatter back teeth, such as the molars and premolars, to help protect them from a buildup of bacteria between the cusps of the teeth.
While brushing and flossing are effective at removing most food and sugar particles, the rear teeth contain many places that allow for buildup. Sealants help to protect these vulnerable points by “sealing” the tooth from allowing this buildup to ever touch our enamel.
While sealants are rather easy to place, they aren’t for every patient. Typically, dentists will place sealants on children and teenagers when they first get their premolars and molars. This helps to protect their teeth through a person’s more cavity-prone years. However, dentists may also put sealants onto an adult’s mouths when they have tooth decay or fillings in their molars.
In some cases, a dentist may also place sealants onto a patient’s baby teeth in order to help keep those teeth healthy and aid in the proper development of their adult teeth. Baby teeth are important to hold spacing for subsequent adult teeth, and early baby tooth loss may require additional spacing or alignment when the adult teeth erupt.
The process of placing sealants is relatively fast and completely pain-free. However, proper sealant placement requires a few steps to be followed in order to ensure that they properly adhere to the teeth and don’t seal in any bacteria underneath.
Thorough cleaning – The teeth that are going to be sealed should first be thoroughly cleaned. This will ensure that there no cavity-causing bacteria will be allowed underneath the sealant as well as provides a good surface for the sealant to adhere to.
Dry the tooth – If the tooth is wet, it may not allow the sealant to adhere to the tooth properly. Each tooth will be dried, and a piece of cotton or other material will be placed around the tooth to keep it moisture free.
Roughing the surface – The smooth surface of your tooth doesn’t allow the sealant a good surface to adhere to, so an acid solution is placed on the tooth which will give your tooth a rougher texture and more surface area to allow the sealant to cling to the tooth properly.
Rinse and dry – The tooth is then rinsed and dried to clear the acid solution.
Paint the tooth – The sealant is then brushed onto the tooth enamel which then bonds to the tooth. Sometimes a special light will be used to cure the sealant and further harden the protective coating.