All teeth naturally form grooves during their development. These are usually found on the biting surfaces of molars and premolars (back teeth), but can sometimes be present on canines and incisors also. The grooves are referred to as “fissures” and can range from wide, shallow ones to narrow, deep ones. These grooves can be protected with fissure seals.
In the case of narrow, deep fissures, it can be difficult for toothbrush bristles to fit into the grooves and clean out trapped food particles and bacteria. When bacteria is left to accumulate within the grooves, it forms a sticky layer called plaque, and this releases acid byproducts that can eat into the tooth structure and cause dental decay.
Your dentist may recommend a sealant if your fissures are at an increased risk of developing plaque. Fissure sealants may also be prescribed for a child or adolescent who has recently developed permanent molars or premolars, and seems to have difficulty keeping the biting surfaces of these teeth free from plaque and bacteria.
Made from either synthetic polymers or glass ionomer cements, fissure sealants can be clear, tinted or white. The sealant is applied to a cleaned tooth as a thin layer of liquid. This sets naturally after a few minutes or more quickly if a curing light is used. The result is a flat protective coating that smoothes out the grooves.
The procedure is painless and non-invasive, as the gums do not need to be numbed for this treatment. Sometimes, the dentist may choose to use a dental dam to ensure that the seal is applied under optimal conditions.
After the procedure, you will find it much easier to maintain good oral hygiene and your risk of dental decay will be considerably reduced in the treated areas.
Over time, fissure sealants can deteriorate from everyday wear and tear, such as chewing, toothbrush abrasion or grinding habits. Therefore, it is important to have dental checkups regularly so that your dentist can determine whether your fissure seals need to be repaired or replaced.