Sealants

Q:  What are sealants?
A:  A sealant is a thin, plastic material placed onto the chewing surfaces of teeth (typically the molars) to prevent decay from developing.

Q:  How effective are sealants?
A:  When properly applied, they have been shown to be 100% effective.  As long as the sealant remains intact, food and bacteria cannot get into the tooth.

Q:  If they are so effective, why aren’t sealants placed on all the surfaces of the teeth?
A:  The smooth surfaces of teeth (the sides of the teeth) are not as prone to decay as the chewing surface (with all its grooves).  Brushing and flossing are effective for the smooth surfaces.  The brush’s bristles cannot get into the bottom of the grooves on the tops of the teeth to remove food and bacteria. 

Q:  If they are so effective, why aren’t sealants placed in the grooves of all the teeth?
A: When children’s teeth first erupt, they have not had time to benefit from the actions of fluoride.  Combine this with the lack of good care children usually cannot provide for their teeth, and you have a recipe for decay.  As children get older and they become more responsible (so we hope!), they can maintain the health of their teeth without sealants.

Q:  Do only children benefit from sealants?
A:  No. If your dentist notices you have a tendency to develop cavities, he or she may recommend you have sealants placed to help prevent cavities.  They may even recommend sealants for teeth other than the molars.

Q:  How are sealants applied?  Is it a painful process?
A:  Sealant placement is not painful.  The surface of the tooth is first cleaned.  Then the tooth is conditioned with a gel.  Finally, the sealant material is placed, and hardened with a special light.  Typically, four sealants are placed in a 30 to 40 minute appointment.

Q:  How long do sealants last?
A:  Typically, sealants will last 3 to 5 years.  One study showed that over a 7-year period, 49% of treated teeth were still completely covered.

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