The top surfaces of your teeth – where the chewing takes place – aren’t smooth and flat. They are criss-crossed with tiny hills and valleys which are called pits and fissures. These are places where plaque can build up safe from your toothbrush and dental floss. Some of the pits and fissures are so narrow that even a single bristle from your toothbrush cannot get deep enough to clean them out.
One method of preventing cavities from developing in the pits and fissures is to seal them off with a special varnish called a pit and fissure sealant. At Dr. Gowd’s Dental Hospitals, if we determine that you need a pit and fissure sealant to help protect your teeth from decay, some special steps are taken to prepare the teeth first. We will clean the tooth first and then apply a mild acid solution to ‘etch’ the surface and make it easier for the pit and fissure sealant to stick. The whole procedure is quick and painless. Keeping the area dry and away from your saliva during the application is very important. If the tooth gets wet, the sealant might not stick properly. Once everything is ready, we ‘paint’ the sealant right over the pits and fissures on the tooth surface. A special kind of light cures the sealant and makes it ready for use.
How do sealants work?
The sealant forms a smooth, protective barrier by covering all the little grooves and dips (pits and fissures) in the surface of the tooth. Dental decay easily starts in these grooves.
Which teeth should be sealed?
Sealants are only applied to the back teeth – the molars and premolars. These are the teeth that have pits and fissures on their biting surfaces. Your dentist will tell you which teeth should be sealed after examining them, and checking whether the fissures are deep enough for sealing to help. Some teeth naturally form with deep grooves which can be sealed, others form with shallow ones which may not need sealing.
When should this be done?
Sealants are often applied as soon as the adult teeth start to come through. This is usually between 6 and 7 years of age. The rest are usually sealed as soon as they appear, which can be any time between 11 and 14.
How long does the sealants last?
Sealants usually last for many years, but your dentist will want to check them regularly to make sure that the seal is still intact. They can wear over time, and sometimes the dentist needs to add or replace some sealant to make sure that no decay can start underneath.
Do I still have to clean my teeth?
Yes. It is still vital that you do this. The smooth, sealed surface is now much easier to keep clean and healthy with normal tooth brushing. Using a fluoride toothpaste will also help to protect your teeth. Children up to three years old should use a toothpaste with a fluoride level of at least 1000ppm (parts per million). Three-year-olds to adults should use a toothpaste that contains 1350ppm to 1500ppm of fluoride. Pit and fissure sealing reduces tooth decay and the number of fillings you might need.