Sealants are a thin covering of white tooth colored filling material over the chewing surfaces of the teeth. The chewing surfaces of the back teeth have many deep grooves and pits that can harbor food debris that bacteria use to cause cavities. Unfortunately, many of these grooves and pits are so deep that your tooth brush bristles and floss cannot reach them to keep them clean. Furthermore, these deep pits and grooves do not receive as much benefit from fluoride as do the smooth surfaces of your teeth (the surface against your tongue, the surface against your cheek, and the surfaces the touch up against other teeth).
Since these grooves and pits are almost impossible to keep clean the best way to prevent food debris and bacteria from being retained in them is by eliminating the pits and grooves. This is done by placing a thin covering of white tooth colored filling material over the chewing surface. We strongly recommend sealants on the permanent molars since they notoriously have deep pits and grooves. Many children can also benefit from sealants on their premolars as well. We examine the sealants at 6 month check up appointments and replace and repair them as necessary. These sealants can stay in place for many years and give the back teeth added protection from decay.
The procedure for placing sealants is relatively simple. The teeth receiving the sealants do have to be kept dry and free from moisture (saliva). Dr. Buddy or Dr. Porter along with a dental assistant will isolate the tooth from the cheeks and tongue by using cotton rolls or cotton shields. For many children the isolation from the saliva is the most difficult part because it does require a lot of dental items and fingers in the mouth at one time. For many younger children we will use laughing gas in order to relax the child and to help suppress the gag reflex. Once the tooth is isolated Dr. Buddy or Dr. Porter will place some “tooth conditioners” on the tooth surface for under a minute to “prepare” the tooth for the dental sealant. After the tooth is conditioned the doctor will paint the dental sealant into the grooves of the tooth with a small brush and shine a bright light on the tooth to harden the sealant material. The doctor will check to make sure placing the sealant did not alter the child’s bite and then the sealant is all done.