Teeth are covered with a sticky film of bacteria called plaque. Bacteria change sugar into harmful acids that attack the hard layer of teeth called enamel. Repeated attacks may break down the enamel and cause cavities. Tooth decay often occurs on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth. These surfaces have pits and fissures that trap plaque and bits of food. These areas are hard to keep clean, because toothbrush bristles cannot reach into them. That is how decay starts in the grooves and a cavity is formed.
A sealant is a plastic material (resin) applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth. The resin flows into the pits and fissures in the teeth. Once the pits and fissures are covered, food and plaque cannot get in. The sealant forms a barrier against acid attacks.
Sealants may last several years before they need to be replaced. Over time, sealants can become loose or worn. Then they may not protect the tooth as well. We look at the sealants during a checkup to make sure they are still intact. Sealants are most often placed in children and teenagers, adults can benefit from sealants too. Prevention is always better than treatment. Sealants are very useful in stopping tooth decay on the back teeth.