One method of preventing cavities from developing in the pits and fissures is to seal them off
The top surfaces of your teeth – where the chewing takes place – aren’t smooth and flat. They are cris-crossed with tiny hills and valleys – called pits and fissures. These are places where plaque can build up safe from your toothbrush and dental floss. Some of the pits and fissures are so narrow that even a single bristle from your toothbrush can’t get deep enough to clean them out.
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. If we determine that you need a pit and fissure sealant to help protect your teeth from decay, some special steps are taken to prepare the teeth first. Your dentist will clean the tooth first, then apply a mild acid solution to ‘etch’ the surface and make it easier for the pit and fissure sealant to stick. The whole procedure is quick and painless. Keeping the area dry and away from your saliva during the application is very important. If the tooth gets wet, the sealant might not stick properly. Once everything is ready, your dentist ‘paints’ the sealant right over the pits and fissures on the tooth surface. A special kind of light cures the sealant and makes it ready for use.
Sealants are a safe and painless way of protecting your teeth from decay. A sealant is a protective plastic coating, which is applied to the biting surfaces of the back teeth. The sealant forms a hard shield that stops food and bacteria getting into the tiny grooves in the teeth and causing decay.
The sealant forms a smooth, protective barrier by covering all the little grooves and dips (pits and fissures) in the surface of the tooth. Dental decay easily starts in these grooves.
Sealants are only applied to the back teeth – the molars and premolars. These are the teeth that have pits and fissures on their biting surfaces. Your dentist will tell you which teeth should be sealed after examining them, and checking whether the fissures are deep enough for sealing to help. Some teeth naturally form with deep grooves which can be sealed, others form with shallow ones which may not need sealing.
Sealing is usually quick and straightforward, taking only a few minutes for each tooth. The tooth is thoroughly cleaned, prepared with a special solution, and then dried. The liquid sealant is then put onto the tooth and allowed to set hard – usually by shining a bright light onto it.
Sealants can protect your children’s back teeth, so that they may never need to have a filling! The first permanent back molars are usually sealed between 6 and 7 years of age. If required the rest of the molars are usually sealed as soon as they appear which can be any time between 11 and 14 years.