The chewing surfaces of molars and premolars are not smooth. They have pits and fissures where the tooth brush bristles can’t reach. So, dental plaque is free to grow causing tooth decay (even with good dental hygiene). Most of the cavities on a kid’s freshly erupted permanent teeth occur in these areas. Some of the pits and fissures are so narrow that even a single bristle from your tooth brush cannot get deep enough to clean them out. The use of a sealant protects the tooth by creating a surface that is smooth and free of grooves, and therefore quite easy to keep clean.

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. The process of applying a sealant is usually quick and straightforward taking only a few minutes per tooth. The tooth is thoroughly cleaned, prepared with a special solution, and dried. Keeping the area dry and away from saliva during the application is very important. If the tooth gets wet, the sealant might not stick properly. Once everything is ready, the liquid sealant is then applied and allowed to set hard- usually by shining an ultraviolet light onto it.

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 be sure that no decay can start underneath them.

The sealant forms a smooth, protective barrier, by covering all the little grooves and dips in the surface of the tooth. Dental decay easily starts in these groves. They are applied as soon as the permanent teeth start to come through. This is between 6 and 7 years of age. The rest are usually sealed as soon as they appear. As long as the sealant remains intact, the tooth surface could be almost 100% protected from tooth decay. It is also vital to brush the teeth regularly. 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 the child’s teeth. Regular visits to the dentist are important because he/she will check the condition of the dental sealant and reapply them when necessary.

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