Fluoride-containing dentifrices (toothpastes) are highly effective in reducing the number of carious lesions (cavities). They occur on the smooth surfaces of enamel (crown of the tooth) and cementum (root surface). Unfortunately, fluorides are not equally effective in protecting the occlusal pits and fissures (crevices on the chewing surfaces of the teeth), where the majority of cavities occur. Considering the fact that the occlusal surfaces constitute only 12% of the total number of tooth surfaces, it means that the pits and fissures are approximately eight times as vulnerable as the smooth surfaces. The placement of sealants is a highly effective means of preventing these.
A sealant is a liquid resin that is placed on the occlusal surface (chewing surface) of the tooth where it penetrates the deep fissures to fill areas that cannot be cleaned with the toothbrush. The hardened sealant presents a physical barrier between the tooth and the hostile environment of the mouth. Sealants prevent bacteria from penetrating the pits and causing cavities.
Dental sealants are very safe for intraoral use, stay in place for years, and are a great option for patients who are looking for a little extra help in preventative care. In short, sealants help prevent the most common form of cavities of teeth in the back of the mouth, that are more difficult to reach and properly clean.
Children, adolescents, and teens are good candidates for dental sealants, because they may not have solid dental hygiene regimens in place. Sealants can also help minimize the detrimental effects of sugary and acidic foods.