Dental sealants are materials placed on tooth’s biting surface in purpose of preventing decay and maintaining good oral health. It is classified as preventive treatment of the minimal intervention approach in pediatric dentistry. Permanent teeth are erupting from ages 6 to 12 and in that age it is hard to maintain perfect oral hygiene. Posterior teeth’s biting surfaces are known for their grooves and pits, called the fissures, and can be difficult to clean. These fissures can be narrower than toothbrush’s bristle, providing ideal place for bacteria to collect along with food and plaque. That’s why molar teeth are considered the most susceptible to decay. To protect those small grooves and chance for decay, it is advisable to apply sealants as soon as biting surface erupts.
Sealants can be divided into two groups based on material they are made from: glass ionomer or resin based.
Glass ionomer sealants contain fluoride and are less moisture sensitive, which is a major plus since this procedure is performed mostly on kids. Releasing fluoride over time has therapeutic advantages, because when combined with salivary fluoride they help preventing decay. Glass ionomer’s weakest point is retention, which is the total opposite of resin ones. Resin sealants have the ability to stay in place for 5 to 10 years, sometimes even longer. Although they don’t discharge fluoride, their longevity is the thing that sets them apart, and makes them the material of choice in this procedure.
Procedure itself is not complicated and it doesn’t involve pain or drilling. First comes the thorough cleaning of biting surfaces. After cleaning, acid is applied to roughen the surfaces. Clean and etched surface is ready for sealant to be “painted” in the grooves, where it bonds directly with or without curing light.
This method is very effective in decay prevention as long as it is done properly and sealant is regularly checked for cracks.