Dental sealants are a simple procedure in which a tooth-colored acrylic “coating” is painted onto the surface of the tooth. Sealants basically act as a barrier to prevent bacteria from collecting in the pits of back teeth. The chances of developing decay in the fissures of your teeth start as soon as they erupt; obviously children and teenagers are perfect candidates.
Brushing and flossing can help to clean food and plaque from all of the smooth surfaces of your teeth, but the bristles can’t always get into the creases and crevices to dig out food. Sealants help by protecting the vulnerable areas by “sealing out” the debris as well as preventing acid from eating away at the enamel.
Do Sealants Hurt?
Sealants are 100% pain free, and don’t take long at all – just a couple of minutes per tooth. The first step is to make sure that the surface of the tooth is clean and debris free, otherwise the sealant will not bond. We do this by using a brush attachment on the drill to “sandblast” out anything that has collected. No anesthetic is needed and it is completely painless.
Once the area is clean, an “etching” solution is painted where the sealant will be placed. This “etch” works much like paint primer – it sits on your tooth for 60 seconds and then it’s washed off. Etch is acidic, however if you were to get any of it on your tongue, it wouldn’t hurt, it might just taste a little bitter. After the etch is washed off, the surface of your tooth will look frosty and dull – like etching glass, the rough surface allows the sealant to stay in place like velcro.
During the sealing process, the teeth must be kept dry (with the help of cotton rolls, gauze and/or a rubber dam), not doing so interferes with the bonding and typically results in the sealant coming off. At this point the liquid sealant is painted into the grooves and the plastic resin is set using a curing light (which looks like one of those pocket flashlights) to harden it.
The final step is to check the “bite,” meaning the thickness of the sealant should not interfere with the way teeth come together. If it’s too thick, the sealant will be buffed with a drill to thin it out. Sealants are quite sturdy and can withstand the forces of chewing, often lasting several years.
Ultimately, sealants are a great option to prevent the hassle and expense of dealing with cavities and fillings later on in life. And long as they remain intact, teeth will be protected from decay.