Dental sealants are plastic coatings that act as a protective barrier. When applied to the teeth surfaces, these sealants prevent plaque and acids from damaging the teeth. While brushing and flossing are effective in warding off cavities, it’s not always easy to reach every nook and cranny with your toothbrush. The uneven chewing surfaces of the molars can hide bacteria. When sealants are applied to the molars, bacteria and food debris cannot easily stick in these grooves, inhibiting the development of tooth decay.
Dental sealants are recommended for use on children. They should ideally be applied as soon as the first permanent molars emerge (usually around age 6) and before tooth decay has a chance to attack teeth. Sealants should also be applied to the second permanent molars, which usually emerge around age 12. Some teens and young adults may also benefit from sealants if they have teeth that are prone to decay.
The dental sealant process begins with the cleaning of the teeth. Each tooth that will receive a sealant must be properly cleaned to ensure that the sealant forms a secure bond. To clean the teeth, Dr. Yu may use a small brush on their dental drill that spins to clean out the small grooves. If debris remains, he may also use an air-abrasion technique that involves the use of a hand piece that pushes an air stream of small aluminum oxide particles onto the teeth.
Next, our Matthews dentist will condition the tooth surface by spreading an “etching” gel onto the area that requires a sealant. The gel is left for 30 to 60 seconds before being rinsed off. The etching process is required so that the tooth surface will properly bond to the sealant. Once the etching gel is removed, an air gun is used to blow the tooth dry. With the tooth dry, our dentist will apply the sealant into the grooves. This is typically done using a small brush or a mini syringe.
Finally, the sealant must be set using a curing light. This setting process takes just 60 seconds and involves shining an intense curing light onto the tooth to harden the liquid sealant. Once the curing is finished, the sealant should be hardened and fully functional.