What Is A Sealant For Teeth And What Function Does It Serve?

In a perfect world, everyone would have a spotless set of shiny teeth. Daily brushing and flossing would be the only maintenance necessary to keep them this way. But that just isn't the case. A variety of dental treatment options are available to restore or, in some cases, prevent the loss of your natural pearly whites. One such option is a sealant for teeth.

What is a Dental Sealant?

According to the Mayo Clinic, a dental sealant is a plastic coating designed to protect the bicuspids and molars. Applied to the chewing surfaces of those teeth, it keeps plaque and acid from eating away at the enamel. Because the grooves on the bicuspids and molars help to grind food, certain food particles can collect in those grooves and pits, resulting in tooth decay. Brushing and flossing on a regular basis removes some particles and bacteria, but not all. Therefore, a sealant for teeth is sometimes necessary to protect those areas in the back of your mouth that brushing and flossing can't reach.

When to Use a Sealant

Dental sealants act as a preventative step against tooth decay. Much like how fluoride protects tooth surfaces, sealants complement the fluoride's effect for those grooved areas of your back teeth. Their application is a fairly simple procedure with minimal discomfort, if any at all. Your dental professional will give your teeth a thorough cleaning first, before applying the sealant to their chewing surfaces. After the sealant is placed, it bonds with the existing tooth enamel, and the use of a curing light helps the sealant to harden in place. The entire process can be performed in a single visit.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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Sealants, also referred to as dental sealants, consist of a plastic material that is placed on the chewing (occlusal) surface of the permanent back teeth — the molars and premolars — to help protect them from bacteria and acids that contribute to tooth decay. The plastic resin in sealants is placed by a dental practitioner into the depressions and grooves of the chewing surfaces of back teeth. A light may be used to cure the sealant which then acts as a barrier, protecting the enamel surface of the teeth from plaque and acids.

Thorough brushing and flossing helps remove food particles and plaque from the smooth surfaces and grooves of teeth, but toothbrushes cannot reach all the way into the deep depressions and grooves found on some teeth to extract all food and plaque. Plaque accumulates in these areas, and the acid from bacteria in the plaque attacks the enamel, causing cavities to develop. While fluoride helps prevent decay and helps protect all the surfaces of the teeth, dental sealants add extra protection for the grooved and pitted areas. Sealants can help protect these vulnerable areas by "sealing out" plaque and food debris from the occlusal surfaces of the teeth.

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