Dental Sealants: The 5 W’s (and How)

Sealants are commonly used in modern dentistry to prevent decay on the biting (occlusal) surface of a tooth. They were first used in 1967 and were recognized as an effective treatment by the American Dental Association in 1971. Parents may have questions about why a sealant has been recommended for their child. This article aims to answer those questions.

Who: People who have a high risk  developing cavities — mainly children, adolescents, and some adults.

What: Sealants are typically made of a material similar to a tooth-colored (composite) filling.

When: Sealants should be placed soon after the arrival of permanent molars.

Where: Permanent molars, which are the back teeth, are usually the ones that are sealed.

Why: Permanent molars can have pits and deep, narrow grooves on the biting surface. These grooves can be too narrow for an individual toothbrush bristle to reach the depth of the groove. This means that even good oral hygiene habits might be unsuccessful in cleaning those areas. An unclean area is more susceptible to developing tooth decay. A study published in 2004 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that approximately 90% of all cavities occurred in the pits and grooves of permanent molars. Additionally, fluoride has not been shown to be as effective on the pits and grooves of a tooth as on the smooth surfaces.

How: Sealants are easy to place and do not require an injection. A sealant flows into the deep, narrow grooves of the tooth and is then hardened with a light. This makes the grooves shallower and wider, which allows the area to be more easily cleaned. The patient should avoid chewing ice, hard foods, and sticky foods after a sealant is placed. Ice and hard candy can fracture the sealant. Sticky foods can pull the sealant out of place. Sealants can last for years if properly maintained.

Call Riccobene Associates Family Dentistry today to schedule an appointment for your child today!

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