When back teeth form they often have quite deep grooves or fissures between the cusps, or points on the biting surfaces. Even some front teeth have grooves at the back of them. Because these fissures are very narrow they cannot be cleaned effectively with the result that food remains in the deepest parts. This often allows decay to start resulting in a filling in the tooth.
Where the grooves are deep enough to cause a hazard, dentists or dental therapists can place a resin seal in the fissure which prevents food lodging in it. This is best done soon after the tooth erupts into a child’s mouth. No drilling is required. The fissure is etched to make the sealant stick to the tooth and the resin is painted on. This should last several years and can be re-applied if it wears away.
What are they?
A fissure sealant is a plastic coating which is bonded (or glued) to the chewing surface of a back tooth. The chewing surfaces of the back teeth have grooves in them that can be hard to clean. The sealants fit over these ‘fissures’ so they are easy to clean and therefore stop decay from starting.
Who needs them?
Fissure sealants are usually done on adolescents. At this age children can be most prone to getting decay. The biting surfaces are the most common area to get decay in children. Children who are particularly prone to decay should ideally have these sealants done as soon as the teeth have come through.
How are they done?
The tooth surface is thoroughly cleaned. Then the ‘coating’ is applied and set in place. Each sealant only takes a few minutes to do. Several can be done at the same appointment. It is completely painless and no drilling is required!!
What do they look like?
They are barely visible!! Sometimes they are clear and sometimes they can have a slight white tint.
How long do they last?
They can last right through adolescents. Sometimes they need to be replaced in this time. It is easy for the dentist to check they are there at the regular dental visit. If they need to be replaced it is just as simple.
Who does them?
They can be done by the school dental therapist, our hygienist or any of the dentists.
Tests have shown that sealants greatly reduce tooth decay and therefore the need for fillings.