Because of their many bumps and grooves, the chewing surfaces of children's (and adult's) teeth are highly susceptible to cavities. Debris and resulting bacteria may become lodged between these grooves on the molars and premolars. These grooves, called pits and fissures, may be more problematic for some children and adults, than for others. Other factors such as diet, hygiene and salivary flow may also increase the risk of enamel breakdown and lead to cavity formation.
A sealant is a plastic material (resin) that is applied to the chewing surfaces of these back teeth to eliminate the irregular surface making the teeth easier to keep clean and thus helping to prevent decay. It only takes a few minutes to seal each tooth.
The procedure which is virtually painless, and rarely involves drilling or anesthesia. The teeth are cleaned and conditioned to help the sealant adhere and the resin is painted onto the chewing surface where it flows into the pits and fissures. It is then hardened with a curing light. You are allowed to eat and drink immediately after the procedure!
As long as the resin remains intact the chewing surface is protected from decay. They hold up well under the force of normal chewing and usually last several years before reapplication is needed. The condition of each sealant is checked at your maintenance visit. Good oral hygiene at home, regular dental visits and cleanings help protect the other surfaces of your teeth. Sealants do not replace fluoride, but add to the benefits of fluoride in preventing more extensive treatment later on.
Sealants are routinely recommended for children as soon as the back molars have erupted (6-7 years) and at subsequent visits when additional permanent teeth appear. Insurance will often cover the cost of this Preventive Procedure, however this is dependent upon your policy provisions.
Without a doubt, sealants are a very vital part of your child's preventive program!