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This valuable treatment involves a thin layer of plastic that is placed atop the occlusal (chewing) surface of the tooth. Sealants are often used on the large molars at the rear of the mouth, which have more surface area exposed to bacteria and grooves that can collect food debris and plaque. It also can be more challenging to keep these teeth clean through brushing and flossing alone, due to their location. Even if you have your dentist place a sealant, which can last for several years, don’t consider it a cure-all for tooth decay.
When applying a sealant, your family dentist will first clean the tooth thoroughly to remove any bacteria from the surface to be sealed. The dentist then coats the tooth with a special solution designed to help the sealant stick to the tooth. The liquid sealant is then applied and cured. After drying, the sealant may be clear or tooth-colored as not to distract from the rest of the smile.
Even if you have your dentist place a sealant, which can last for several years, don’t consider it a cure-all for tooth decay. It’s still important to brush twice a day and floss once a day. Patients with weak teeth in other locations that aren’t typically treated with sealants may also want to consider a fluoride treatment for additional strength. Be sure to work with your dentist to plan an effective ongoing regimen for oral hygiene.
Many patients may associate sealants with pediatric dentistry because they are often placed shortly after the permanent molars erupt (and sometimes in baby teeth, too), but in reality, patients of all ages can benefit from a sealant if they have an issue with frequent cavities.
You or your child may benefit from a dental sealant as an extra measure of protection against tooth decay and tooth loss. If you’ve developed more than your fair share of cavities, especially on the molars or premolars, discuss this treatment with our dental team during your next visit.