A dental sealant (also known as a pit and fissure sealant) is a professionally applied plastic material which is put on the chewing surfaces of back teeth to prevent cavities. Sealants provide a physical barrier preventing cavity causing bacteria from invading the pits and fissures on the chewing surfaces of teeth.
Sealants should be used as part of a child's total preventive dental care. A complete preventive dental program includes use of sealants, fluoride, plaque removal, careful food choices, and regular dental care. Sealing a tooth is better than waiting for decay and filling the cavity as they help maintain sound, intact teeth. Decay destroys the structure of the tooth. Each time a tooth is filled or a filling is replaced, additional tooth structure is lost. Fillings last an average of 6 to 8 years before they need to be replaced. Appropriate use of sealants can save time, money and the discomfort associated with dental treatment procedures.
Applying sealants does not require drilling or removing tooth structure. It is an easy three-step process: The tooth is cleaned with a special toothpaste. A special cleansing liquid, on a tiny piece of cotton, is rubbed gently on the tooth and is washed off. Finally, the sealant is painted on the tooth. It takes about a minute for the sealant to form a protective shield. One sealant application can last for as long as 5 to 10 years. Sealants should be checked regularly, and reapplied if they are no longer in place.