Fissure sealants are protective coatings, usually applied to the teeth at the back of the mouth, to prevent damage or decay. A form of preventative dentistry, fissure sealants provide a smooth layer that covers the otherwise uneven chewing surface, making it easy to keep the top of the tooth clean and bacteria free.
When should teeth be sealed?
Decay can easily start in the small and hard-to-reach dips in the surface of the molar teeth. Plaque-causing bacteria happily make a home in these narrow grooves, and the acid they produce can break down the enamel and lead to tooth decay.
Fissure sealant is usually recommended if the grooves on the biting surface are particularly deep.
These spots are not always easy to clean with a tooth brush so bacteria and food particles quickly get stuck. As a result, fissure sealant is usually recommended if the pits and fissures (also known as hollows and grooves) on the biting surface are particularly deep and hard to keep clean.
Some dentists opt to apply the coating as soon as the teeth appear. The first usually arrive at about 6 to 7 years old, while the remainder come through between 11 and 14 years of age. Others recommend the treatment on a case-by-case basis, when they inspect the teeth at dental checkups. It is only ever applied to the molars and premolars – the large back teeth that we use for chewing.
As decay contributes to cavities in the teeth, applying sealant early can also prevent the need for more extensive dental treatment, such as fillings, further down the line.
Applying fissure sealant
Fissure sealant is usually a white or clear-coloured resin, similar to some other types of filling. The sealant is applied quickly, with no anaesthetic or complex procedure such as drilling. There is not usually any pain or discomfort for the patient either during or after the process.
Before the dentist applies the sealant, each tooth is cleaned, prepared with a special solution and allowed to dry. Once the first stage is complete, the application of the fissure sealant itself takes a matter of minutes. A liquid version is painted directly to the surface of the tooth to fill the grooves, before being allowed to harden with the help of a bright light. Your dentist will check your bite, and may polish away any excess sealant, and you'll be able to leave the surgery shortly after the treatment is complete.
Complications are rare, and are generally limited to an allergic reaction or a problem with bite.
Occasionally a fluoride varnish is applied instead of sealant, usually for very young patients deemed at risk of developing cavities. The varnish must be reapplied several times throughout the year by a dental professional.
How long do sealants last?
Sealants usually last for many years with good oral hygiene. You should treat your sealed tooth in the same way as other teeth, ensuring it is kept clean with normal brushing and flossing. However, sealant can wear over time, and regular dental checkups give your dentist a chance to check the condition and replace it if necessary. It's important that decay is prevented from developing underneath the sealant, and it's possible your dentist will add to the sealant during later visits to reduce the risk.
If you're interested in learning more about the types of dental fillings we offer, and if they may be applicable to you, make an appointment online or via 04 978 4964.