The best way to avoid tooth decay and gum disease is to maintain good oral hygiene. Taking proper care of your teeth at home and scheduling regular visits with your dentist are the keys to a healthy mouth. Cleaning your teeth appropriately on a daily basis at home to avoid plaque buildup is only one part of the plan. Seeing your dentist every six month for cleaning, exams, x-rays, and other screenings and treatments will ensure a lifelong healthy smile.
Dental sealants are comprised of a plastic material that is applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth of children as a protective barrier. This barrier keeps food and plaque from becoming stuck in the grooves of these teeth, which are difficult to keep clean with a toothbrush.
Sealants are usually used on the permanent molars, emerging first at approximately 6 years old and then secondary molars around age 12. The earlier the sealant is applied after the teeth have erupted, the less chance the child has for forming cavities in those teeth.
The process for applying a sealant is very easy and painless for the child. The tooth is cleaned very well to ensure that there is no debris in any of the pits on the surface. The tooth is then dried carefully so that there is no moisture to affect the sealant from adhering to the tooth. A gel is applied to help the sealant bond to the tooth. When the gel is dry (usually within one minute), the sealant itself is then applied to the dried tooth. The sealant is painted onto the prepared chewing surface and allowed to dry (usually within two minutes, depending on the curing method).
At subsequent visits, the dentist will check the condition of the sealants and reapply them as needed to ensure that the molars are protected.