Pit and fissure sealants are like plastic coatings that are painted or brushed onto the surface of the teeth (kind of like putting on nail polish). Sealants are done as preventative measures taken to keep teeth healthy, strong and cavity free. They are most often done on permanent or adult molars but can also be used on primary molars. Often, when teeth develop, they have deep grooves on the biting surface called pits and fissures.
Pits and fissures are cavity prone areas because they trap food and bacteria, which causes cavities. Even the best brushers cannot keep these areas clean because the bristles of the toothbrush are too big to fit into the grooves. We recommend sealants to be done once the adult molars have fully erupted in children’s mouths, usually around the age of six and again at the age of twelve.
To apply the sealants, the teeth must be cleaned well, and then dried. An etch solution is applied to the teeth (the etch helps bond the sealants to the tooth). The etch is rinsed well and the teeth are dried well again. The sealant material is applied to the teeth with a syringe like brush applicator, and it is then “cured” or hardened with an ultraviolet light. The sealant is checked for proper hardness and proper bonding to the tooth. Sometimes excess material has to be removed. The average time for sealants to last is between one and ten years. This greatly depends on the habits of the patient with home care, eating and bruxism.
Patients with sealants should be careful not to eat sticky-chewy candies, hard candies, or ice. These things can fracture the sealants or pull the sealant completely off of the tooth, preventing the sealant from protecting the tooth from developing a cavity. Clenching and grinding of the teeth can also cause a fracture in the sealant or cause the sealant to come completely off.
Regular check-ups are necessary to make sure the sealants have not become dislodged or chipped. If a sealant comes dislodged, it will need to be replaced. If you know that you have lost or broken a sealant, you should call our office to schedule an appointment to get it replaced.