According to the American Dental Association, 4 out of 5 cavities occur in the many crevices of our molars. This can be predominant in children as they are not as experienced in cleaning their teeth.
The grooved areas are what are known as “fissures”, and since most of our predominant chewing is done by our back molars, that means bacteria, food, and plaque build-up often occur in these areas. In adult teeth, the fissures are deeper than baby molars. When particles become trapped, they can accumulate bacteria and ultimately break down a child’s enamel, forming a cavity.
Because some of these cracks are so minuscule, they may be difficult to reach by way of traditional brushing due to bristles not being thin enough or strong enough.
Sealants are a protective, clear coating that protects these fissures from decay. As adult molars begin to erupt (usually at ages 6 and 12, but the time frame can vary) these sealants can be added to a child’s tooth prevent cavities from forming. They are applied by first cleaning a tooth using a rotating brush, and then rinsed with water. The tooth is then dried, so the sealant can adhere to the surface of the tooth. Once it is placed, the substance is then dried with a special curing light which causes it to set as a hard varnish. Then viola! The tooth can now be used normally for chewing. While it is not common, adults are known to have this procedure done for preventative measures as well.
Invented in the 1970s, sealants have been known to be fairly effective. The average life span for a sealant is 5-10 years and can be re-applied if necessary. As long as the covering remains intact, it stays effective for the child and into adulthood as well. If a sealant is broken or becomes loose, it should be removed immediately by a dentist so that the procedure can be redone. Quick and painless, you cannot really go wrong with sealants!