What is a sealant?
The sealant is a white liquid varnish that is applied to the surface of the tooth using a brush and hardens with a polymerizing light. Beforehand, the tooth is cleaned with an abrasive agent or sometimes with a dental drill for deeper cracks. Its main function is to protect the tooth surface against decay.
The sealing of the teeth mainly concerns the masticatory surface (top) of the premolars and permanent molars or more precisely their furrows (small natural cracks on the tooth). Also, it may be that in some cases this treatment is also recommended for primary molars or incisors and canines that have a groove on the side of the tongue.
Around the age of 6 or 7, the first permanent teeth (adult teeth) appear, including the first adult molars called 6-year-old molars. They grow in the back of the mouth, behind the last primary teeth so they do not replace any primary teeth and may even go unnoticed for a while. This is also often the case for second molars, which appear around the age of 12. These molars are more likely to decay since they are located at the back of the mouth and have a surface made up of small cracks where food and bacteria easily lodge. Access to the toothbrush is often more limited which can cause accumulations of more abundant bacterial plaque which is more conducive to tooth decay. Moreover, 80% of cavities in children are found on teeth that have furrows, but it is up to them to be protected quickly.
The stages of sealants
- The tooth to be sealed is cleaned with an abrasive agent (pumice stone, prophy powder) or a dental bur if the cracks are deeper. It must be very clean so as not to seal in bacteria or dirt.
- We then apply an acid gel on the surface to be sealed for a few seconds to open the pores of the enamel. The goal is to prepare the surface for better adhesion of the sealant to it.
- The tooth will be rinsed with water and dried with a jet of air.
- We apply a liquid which is an adhesive. It will further strengthen the adhesion bond between the tooth and the sealant to come.
- The sealant is ready to be applied in the grooves of the tooth using a brush. We must ensure that the product is well spread in each of the furrows to be sealed. Then, it will be hardened using a polymerizing light (blue light).
- The last step is to adjust the occlusion of the teeth that have been sealed. We check it using a small ink paper that we place on the teeth. If we need to make some changes to the height, we will take a dental polishing bur.
Our advice on sealants
The duration of a sealant can vary but it has an average of 3 to 10 years. It is important to have them checked during routine dental exams. We will be able to make sure that they do not have any fractures or that they do not show abnormal wear.
To preserve them as long as possible, it is desirable to maintain good dental hygiene and not to put objects in your mouth such as pencils, pins or any other thing that could damage them.
If a sealant has cracked or shows significant wear, it can be easily replaced.
Sealants, rich in benefits!
- Sealants are an excellent way to preserve the surface of premolars and molars during childhood and adulthood.
- Sealants when applied very early in children make it easier to pass the critical age for cavities.
- It is not uncommon to see children keep their sealants well into adulthood.
- The application of sealants is painless, does not require anesthesia, it is comparable to the application of varnish on the nails.
- The cost of a sealant is much less than the cost of a cavity treatment
- The sealing of a tooth is done on the surface and does not alter it as a filling can do.
Thus, sealing the teeth is a preventive measure against cavities. Although it must be applied before this happens, it may be that a small cavity that is still on the surface of the enamel can be cleaned with a dental drill and then sealed. On the other hand, for a tooth whose decay is located at the level of the dentin, the sealant will not be possible. The same is true for cavities that are between the teeth or on the incisors and canines. Children and adolescents are the most recommended for sealants because they are more at risk for cavities, but adults can benefit as much if they also want to avoid them. The important thing is to remember that this preventive care must be done before the appearance of dental caries otherwise it will not be a sealant but a filling.