Proper oral care greatly reduces the risk for dental problemsﾗbut it cannot eliminate it entirely. The chewing surfaces of the premolars and molars or back teeth remain hot spots for bacteria to gather. Because the pits and fissures of these teeth are hard to reach by toothbrush bristles bacteria can bunch up in these crevices and eventually cause tooth decay. Dental sealants plastic resin materials ﾓsealﾔ the pits and fissures of the back teeth. These ﾓsealsﾔ shield these areas from bacteria and offer further protection from decay. Dentil resin blocks the food and bacteria access to the tooth enamel. It creates a smooth tooth surface making the tooth easier to clean and eliminating any tricky spots that plaque can sink into.
ﾓSealingﾔ teeth is a fairly simple procedure. Your dentist requires only a few minutes per tooth. First he or she cleans the teeth about to be sealed. Then he or she roughens the chewing surface with an acid solution. This solution helps the sealant stick to the tooth. Next the dentist dries the tooth. Finally your dentist ﾓpaintsﾔ the sealant onto the tooth enamel. The sealant bonds to the tooth and hardens. Some dentists use a curing light to speed up the hardening process.
Once the sealant is in place your dentist will ask you to bite down to ensure that the sealant is not too large and distorting your bite. If it is too large your dentist will buff it down to a more natural size. After the dental visit you can continue eating as you normally would even immediately. Sealants are strong enough to withstand the pressure of chewing and tend to last several years between applications.
Dentists recommend sealants for children and teenagers as these are the years when preventative health care begins. The longevity of the sealant depends on the dentist getting the tooth as dry as possible during the preparation stage. Thus sealants are not recommended for children who will not be able to sit still long enough for the dentists to dry the tooth enough for the resin to stick. Adults too can benefit from sealants. The need for a sealant depends on the shape of the tooth. A tooth with deep or narrow grooves will benefit from a sealant while a tooth with shallow or rounded grooves may not need one at all. Ask your dentist if he or she thinks sealants might be a worthwhile preventative measure for you.
Estimated costs of tooth sealants range from $25 to $40 a tooth. Because sealants are a preventative measure most dental insurance companies are willing to cover the cost as sealants will save them decay-related costs in the long run. Note though that some policies impose a cutoff age of between twelve and sixteen for sealants on the permanent molars and premolars.