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What are dental sealants?

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A sealant is a coating that your dentist can paint on your molars. Your molars, by the way, are the teeth in the back of your mouth that grind food. They have deep grooves called pits and fissures, and in those spots, harmful bacteria can thrive.

Just about anyone can take advantage of dental sealants. Naturally, if you have them on earlier in life, they'll protect your teeth for a longer period of time.

In fact, in 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that dental sealants can avert about 80 percent of children's cavities. Ideally, a child would get sealants around the age of six. Then, when the adult molars emerge at the age of 12 or so, new sealants can go on.

Sealants: What They Look Like, How They Function

Sealants are thin, and they're made of plastic resin. They can be white or clear; some, however, are shaded just a bit.

These coatings are highly effective in terms of stopping cavities. That's because they keep particles of food away from the surfaces of teeth. They also block the microbes that cause tooth decay.

To be more specific, when bacteria ingest the food remnants in your teeth, they generate the acid that causes cavities. Those bacteria can really stick to your enamel, and they'll reproduce rapidly in the grooves of your teeth.

When you have a sealant, though, bits of food can't get lodged inside those tiny spaces. Moreover, those grooves become inaccessible to microbes.

You can have a sealant placed over a tooth even if it already has a cavity. That sealant will serve to prevent further damage and decay.

Having a Sealant Put On

It doesn't hurt at all when your dentist applies a sealant, and you can get it in just one appointment.

Indeed, this procedure is affordable, simple and fast. It begins with a cleaning. Your dentist will then coat your molar with an acidic gel, which will make the tooth's surface more receptive to the sealant and allow it to adhere more tightly. Next, your dentist will rinse that tooth and dry it.

At last, the sealant will be painted on. To help it harden, your dentist will shine a blue light on it.

Taking Care of Your Sealants

Remember that, even if there's a sealant on a certain molar, you still must take care of that tooth diligently. Brush and floss it just as thoroughly as you would if it didn't have a sealant. Otherwise, harmful plaque could build up in that part of your mouth.

 

[RELATED: Simple Tips to Reduce Everyday Wear and Tear on Your Teeth From Eating and Drinking]

 

Other than your routine brushing and flossing, you don't have to do anything special to maintain your dental sealant. Your dentist will handle those maintenance duties for you.

Every time you visit your dentist, she or he will check your sealant and see what kind of shape it's in. If it's damaged — or if it were to fall off — replacing it would be easy.

Also, to avoid weakening your sealants, the team at your dentist's office will likely refrain from air-powder polishing them.

In the end, your dental sealants could each last as long as a decade. As those years go by, you can happily grind away at your meals, secure in the knowledge that your molars are safe and protected.

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