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Dental sealants (also termed pit and fissure sealants, or simply fissure sealants) are a dental treatment intended to prevent tooth decay. Teeth have recesses on their biting surfaces; the back teeth have fissures (grooves) and some front teeth have cingulum pits. It is these pits and fissures which are most vulnerable to tooth decay, partly because food sticks in them and they are hard-to-clean areas. Dental sealants are materials placed in these pits and fissures to fill them in, creating a smooth surface that is easy to clean. Dental sealants are mainly used in children who are at higher risk of tooth decay, and typically they are placed as soon as the adult molar teeth come through.
Dental caries is an upset of the balance between loss and gain of minerals from a tooth surface. The loss of minerals from our teeth occurs from the bacteria within our mouths fermenting foods and producing acids, whereas the tooth gains minerals from our saliva and fluoride that is present within our mouths. When this balance is skewed due to frequent intake of fermentable carbohydrates, poor oral hygiene, and lack of fluoride consumption, there is a continuous loss and little gain of minerals over a long period of time, which can ultimately cause what we know as tooth decay. In our oral cavity, biting surfaces of back teeth are most susceptible to caries due to the presence of grooves and fissures which favors formation and retention of plaque.
Fissure sealants are a preventive treatment that is part of the minimal intervention dentistry approach to dental care. This approach facilitates prevention and early intervention, in order to prevent or stop the dental caries process before it reaches the ends stage of the disease, which is also known as the "hole" or cavitation of a tooth. Once the tooth is cavitated it requires a dental restoration in order to repair the damage, this emphasizes the importance of prevention in preserving our teeth for a lifetime of chewing.
Preventive treatment options for dental caries besides fissure sealants, involve promoting & education on toothbrushing technique with fluoride toothpaste, use of fluoride supplements & application of topical fluorides onto tooth surface.
The aim of fissure sealants is to prevent or arrest the development of dental caries. Preventing tooth decay from the pits and fissures of the teeth is achieved by the fissure sealants providing a physical barricade to protect natural tooth surfaces and grooves, inhibiting build-up of bacteria & food trapped within such fissures & grooves. Fissure sealants also provide a smooth surface that is easily accessible for both our natural protective factor, saliva and the toothbrush bristles when cleaning our teeth. Multiple oral health care professionals including Dr. Robin Kutner and Dr. Laurel Linetsky-Fleisher from Midtown Dental Studio in Toronto , dental therapist, dental hygienist, an oral health therapist and dental assistants (in some states in the USA) are able to apply dental sealants to teeth.
Dental sealants are a plastic material placed in the pits and fissures (the recesses on the chewing surfaces) of primary (baby) or permanent (adult) molar & premolar teeth at the back of the mouth. These molar teeth are considered the most susceptible teeth to dental caries due to the anatomy of the chewing surfaces of these teeth, which unfortunately inhibits protection from saliva and fluoride and instead favours plaque accumulation.