What are dental sealants, who should get them and how long do they last?

by Core Dental Group
dental sealants

Think of your teeth… Where your top teeth contact your bottom teeth, this is known as the biting surface. The biting surface of all teeth have recesses to help grip and chew your food. In the case of the back teeth, these recesses are known as fissures; and in the case of the front teeth, they are known as cingulum pits.

The fissures and pits of each tooth are generally the areas where teeth are most likely to decay. One reason for this is that these areas can be hard to clean effectively, especially for children who are still mastering the technique of brushing. Furthermore, these areas are often “food traps” where food can become stuck.

How do dental sealants work?

At Core Dental, we use composite resin material for our dental sealants. This material is placed within the fissures and pits to make them smooth. That in turn makes these areas easier to keep clean and reduces the probability of food becoming stuck. The goal is to prevent decay.

Who should get them?

As a general rule, children are at higher risk of tooth decay than adults. This may be due to children tending to brush and floss less consistently or using a less effective technique. Certainly, if there is a history of caries (tooth decay), dental sealants may be indicated. Some children will tend to have deeper fissures and pits, and wearing braces can also make teeth cleaning more challenging.

Whatever the cause, due to this higher risk of decay, the use of dental sealants is more common with children. The adult first molars will tend to emerge from about 6 years of age, and all the other adult teeth (with the exception of the wisdom teeth) usually through by 13 years of age. Generally dental sealants are placed on the adult teeth once they have all emerged.

Many parents ask us about dental sealant safety, and the Australian Dental Association has released a position statement regarding this. Put simply, the resin materials that we use are widely available; they are, of course, TGA approved; and all current evidence suggests there is no risk of oestrogen-like side-effects.

How long do they last?

Dental sealants can potentially last five years or more – well into adult life. Longevity depends on how much load they bear during chewing, as well as the quality of materials used and how well the sealant was placed in the first place. At Core Dental, we pay close attention to these details.

We also inspect sealants as part of routine checkups and dental cleaning and this gives us a chance to monitor for rare dental sealant side-effects, most notably contamination beneath with saliva (which can cause the sealant to be lost) or with bacteria, or even with food (which can result in decay).