Deep pits and grooves can be found on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth. Such pits and grooves are termed ‘fissures’ and are usually so narrow that toothbrush bristles and streams of water are not able to clean them effectively. These form a favourable environment for bacteria to flourish, often resulting in tooth decay.
Fissure sealants can be applied to the teeth. These are a special coating used by dentists to seal off the pits and fissures from the oral environment. Sealing the tooth surface protects against bacteria and fermentable foods like sugar and starches, preventing decay from starting deep within the fissures.
This preventive treatment is normally given to children whose permanent teeth are starting to emerge, usually between six and seven years old, but any tooth with pits and fissures can be treated. The application process is quick and easy, and there is no need for anaesthetic or drilling.
Sealants are applied easily and painlessly, and no drilling is required. The tooth is properly cleaned, treated, dried, and the sealant applied using the following steps:
Many studies show sealants to be very effective in preventing decay in fissures. They do, however, require regular maintenance by your dentist. This can be performed with your six-monthly check-up. Recent studies show that a properly placed sealant will last as long as a typical amalgam filling. Even if a sealant is damaged or lost, it is easily repaired and replaced. Regular maintenance by your dentist will help them last.
Sealants are most effective when applied after the eruption of the tooth. Early application ensures pits and fissures are sealed before the decay process begins.
Any tooth with pits and fissures can be treated, provided the surface to be filled is sound and has not been previously filled. The most commonly treated teeth are the molars and premolars. Your dentist will talk to you in further detail about the suitability of your teeth for fissure sealant treatment.
To ensure sealants offer the best protection, it is important they are used in conjunction with a comprehensive dental care routine that includes effective brushing, flossing and a healthy diet. Treated teeth will have smoother surfaces, so they will be much easier to keep clean.
Sealants can last for many years, but regular check-ups are necessary to ensure they continue to remain intact.
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