Sealants are composite resin coatings that coat the chewing surfaces of molars or premolars (back teeth) and prevent decay from taking hold in the grooves of these teeth. Sealants prevent decay only on the chewing surface and do not prevent cavities from forming between teeth.
Sealants can wear down over time, or can possibly develop an area of leakage, and may have to be replaced. It is important for the dentist to check them regularly as part of a semi-annual dental examination.
In some uncommon cases, it is possible for a tooth to decay around the edge of a sealant. However, if the sealant is intact, this decay is generally much less severe than if the sealant was not in place. It is possible, although rare, that if a portion of the sealant dislodges, decay could take hold and progress through a crack into the tooth under the sealant. This generally does not occur if sealants are checked during regularly scheduled dental examinations.
Since molars and premolars erupt at different times, it is unlikely that all back teeth will be sealed at one time. We usually seal first molars after eruption at age six, and second molars during the teen-age years.
Preventive Resin Restorations
Whenever we decide to place a sealant, we check first for minimal decay that could be present in the enamel. When we find that this has occurred but has not progressed into the inner layer of dentin, we place a preventive resin restoration. This is a hybrid between a sealant and a filling, and we use our air abrasion system to clean out the bacteria and remove incipient decay without removing any healthy tooth structure, then seal the tooth with composite resin filling material rather than sealant coating. This results in a more appropriate restoration than a sealant, but with a more conservative technique than using a dental drill to place a traditional “filling.”