Dr. Skalnik recommends placement of sealants on permanent molars and occasionally premolars depending on anatomy. Sealants can be placed on children ages 4-14, ideally within 6 months of the permanent tooth coming in.

The pits and grooves of your teeth are prime areas for opportunistic decay. Even regular brushing sometimes misses some of these intricate structures on the chewing surfaces of your teeth.

Enter sealants, which are thin coatings applied to the chewing surfaces designed to prevent the intrusion of bacteria and other debris into the deep crevices on the tops of your teeth.

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Sealants actually were developed about 50 years ago, but didn’t become commonly used until the 1970s. Today, sealants are becoming widely popular and effective; young children are great candidates for preventative measures like sealants because in many cases, decay has not set in. Even on teeth where decay is present, sealants have been shown to fight additional damage.

Sealants are applied by first cleaning the tooth surface. The procedure is followed by etching the tooth with an abrasive substance, which allows the sealant to better adhere. After the sealant is applied, a warm light source is directed to the site to promote faster drying. Sealants usually need re-application every five to 10 years.

Frequently asked questions about sealants

Q. What are sealants?
A. Sealants are made of a clear, acrylic-like material that shields the chewing surfaces of teeth from decay-causing bacteria. For children, it’s recommended that primary (baby) molars have sealants applied by age three or four when a child’s permanent molars appear. Premolars that erupt before the mid-teens should also be sealed for optimal protection during the most cavity-prone years.

Q. Are sealants and fluoride the same thing?
A. No. While both materials preserve and prolong oral health through decay prevention, they function very differently. Remember that sealants are only applied to certain areas of particular teeth. Fluoride can be used from infancy through adolescence and can be supplied in many forms, including as a gel or varnish, as a prescribed nutritional supplement, and as an ingredient in toothpastes and commercial mouth rinses.

Q. How do sealants prevent decay?
A. Sealants form a protective barrier that covers the pits and fissures (depressions and grooves) of the back teeth. Sealants bond to the chewing surface of the back teeth.

Q. Should sealants be used on all teeth?
A. No. Sealants are best suited for the back teeth or teeth that already have fillings or detectable decay.

Q. How are sealants applied?
A. Sealants are only placed on clean teeth. A mild solution is applied to the chewing surface first so that the tooth will more effectively bond with the sealant material. The tooth is then thoroughly washed and dried, and the sealant is applied. The sealant hardens within a few minutes.

Q. What is the cost of sealants?
A. Generally covered by dental insurance for certain ages, sealants offer a very affordable treatment choice. They are a valuable investment, however, even when not covered by insurance. Sealants help prevent decay and cavities that are costly to treat. The longer teeth can be kept cavity-free, the healthier they will be in the long term.

Q. Once sealants have been applied to the teeth, how should they be maintained?
A. While the sealant material is quite durable, the following activities can negatively affect sealants:

  • Chewing on ice cubes, hard candy or sticky foods.
  • Consuming sugary foods, which produce an acid attack on teeth, causing erosion.

Provide children better snack alternatives such as peanut butter, fresh vegetables (carrot sticks or celery stalks), fruit (unpeeled apples, orange sections, bananas, grapes, or raisins), yogurt, dry cereal, sugar-free granola, cheese and sugar-free popsicles.

Q. How long do sealants last?
A. Sealants last a number of years, depending on the person’s chewing pattern. Sealants are temporary, which makes ongoing six-month checkups with our office important. Dr. Skalnik will typically replace the sealant at little or no cost once during a three-year period, as long as patients maintain their six-month appointments and the teeth stay decay free.

Learn More About Sealants From Your Tuscaloosa Dentist

At Dental Care South in Tuscaloosa, AL our staff is committed to helping our patients maintain a healthy and beautiful smile. Take the steps to protect your smile, and contact us today to find out if sealants are right for you. Take care of your oral health and make an appointment at your local Tuscaloosa dentist today!