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 teeth. The sealant forms a hard shield that stops food and bacteria getting into the tiny grooves in the teeth and causing decay.
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.
The sealant forms a smooth, protective barrier by covering all the little pits and fissures in the surface of the tooth.
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.
Sealants are often applied as soon as the adult teeth start to come through. This is usually between 6 and 7 years of age. The rest are usually sealed as soon as they appear which can be any time between 11 and 14.
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.
It is totally pain free, and the teeth do not feel any difference after treatment.