Dental sealants are most commonly placed on the permanent molars of children. Ideally, this is done shortly after these teeth fully erupt. The first permanent molars erupt around age six and the second permanent molars erupt around age 12. Dental sealants can also protect vulnerable pits or grooves on adult teeth.
The pits and grooves on the back teeth may be too narrow for a toothbrush bristle to reach the base. This allows plaque and bacteria to accumulate, which increases the risk of tooth decay. Dental sealants fill those pits and grooves, thus decreasing the risk of tooth decay by preventing the accumulation of plaque and bacteria.
Placing dental sealants requires no anesthetic or drilling. The teeth must be kept isolated during the procedure. The tooth surface is cleaned and prepared then the sealant material is spread into the pits and grooves. The material either sets by itself or is cured with a light. Your dental professional will check to ensure the sealant does not interfere with chewing.
There is very little risk in having dental sealants placed. Rarely, a sealant will leak, and decay will form beneath it. Regular examinations by your dentist allow sealants to be repaired or replaced as needed.
Without dental sealants, the risk of tooth decay increases significantly in teeth with deep grooves and pits. Once a tooth is decayed, it requires a filling and often becomes weaker due to the loss of sound tooth structure.