Fissure sealants are thin coatings of a dental material applied to protect the grooves (fissures) and pits of teeth. Most fissure sealants are applied to chewing surfaces of back teeth. They protect the tooth surface from tooth decay by keeping food and plaque out of the grooves. Not all fissures and pits require sealing.
Dr Emma Wainwright will let you know which teeth they assess as being at risk of future tooth decay and therefore may need to be fissure sealed.
How do fissure sealants help protect my teeth?
If fissures and pits are deep, removing trapped food or plaque can be difficult. Often the tooth enamel folds in on itself much deeper than we see on the surface, and creates a nice entry for bacteria on the surface to go straight to the more softer dentine. This can lead to tooth decay.
Fissure sealants help prevent food or dental plaque trapping by ‘sealing off’ the fissures and pits. The sealants therefore make it easier to keep the teeth clean with regular toothbrushing. The sealant material itself may release fluoride, protecting the surrounding tooth surface as well.
The first permanent molar teeth come through around six years of age. The ability of children at this age to effectively clean the fissures of these teeth is limited, as often the teeth are partially covered with gum for many months. Sealing these teeth even before they are fully through can greatly reduce their risk of decay.
How are fissure sealants applied?
The process of applying a fissure sealant does not require drilling or removal of tooth structure. After the tooth is thoroughly cleaned, a gel is applied to the surface for a few seconds. The tooth is then washed, dried and inspected. While keeping the tooth dry, the sealant is ‘painted’ or ‘flowed’ on. The fissure sealant is left to set or it may be hardened with the use of a light. The patient’s bite is checked to make sure the sealant does not interfere with the way the teeth bite together.