The deep-set grooves of the molars can be a breeding ground for tooth decay. Luckily, dentists can apply sealants to these teeth to prevent future cavities from forming. The application of sealants to the permanent molars is an inexpensive, painless procedure. Unlike having a tooth repaired when decay occurs, patients will not even need to get numb.
Children and teenagers are the best candidates for sealants. Cavities commonly occur during early childhood and the teenage years and sealants are an optimal preventative measure. Ideally, sealants should be placed when the teeth erupt. This provides the longest protection from tooth decay down the road.
The process of having sealants applied is simple and pain-free. The first step is ensuring the teeth are thoroughly cleaned. In many cases, sealants are applied just after a regular dental cleaning.
After the teeth have been cleaned, the teeth are dried and absorbent material is placed around the teeth to ensure they stay dry during the process.
The next step is applying an acid-etching material to the surfaces of the teeth. This creates a rough surface on the tooth so that the sealant material bonds to the tooth. The acid material is then rinsed away and the teeth are dried again.
The sealant material is then applied to the tooth. A special curing light is used to harden the sealant and bond it to the tooth.
Sealants can last as long as 10 years if taken care of properly. It is important that children are instructed not to eat chewy candy, like caramels, so that the sealants are not pulled off. The sealants will be checked at each dental cleaning visit to ensure they are still in place and that no chipping or erosion has occurred.
Many insurances offer coverage for sealants, but most only cover the service until the age of 18. The expense of having sealants applied pales in comparison to the cost of having these teeth restored after decay has occurred. Sealants can prevent tooth decay until the adult years when dental hygiene and better eating habits can take hold.