A sealant is a clear or shaded protective plastic coating (resin) that is applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth (premolars and molars), as this is where most of the decay (cavities) occurs in children. The sealant prevents tooth decay by covering the pits and grooves of chewing surfaces and sealing out decay-causing food, plaque, acids, and germs. Sealants are most beneficial when placed on permanent molars as soon as the teeth come out (first set typically between ages 5 and 7, and second set of permanent molars grow between ages 11 and 14). Proper planning for the application of dental sealants can be better managed if the child attends regularly scheduled appointments – Dr. Lisi will let you know when is best to apply them.
The procedure is simple and usually takes less than 30 minutes. The teeth that will be sealed are thoroughly cleaned and dried, and the chewing surfaces are roughened with an etching solution that helps the sealants adhere to the teeth. Next, the sealant is “painted” onto the tooth and special curing light bonds and hardens it. Sealants last for several years, and will be checked and touched up as necessary at every appointment.
Getting sealants is not painful and most children have no problem with the process. They just have to stay still and have their mouth propped open with a “tooth pillow” while the sealants are being applied. In children who have high dental anxiety or a strong gag reflex, nitrous oxide (“laughing gas”) can be administered during the sealant process to help them relax.