Deep pits and grooves can be found on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth. Such pits and grooves are termed ‘fissures’ and are usually so narrow that toothbrush bristles and streams of water are not able to clean them effectively. These form a favourable environment for bacteria to flourish, often resulting in tooth decay.
Fissure sealants can be applied to the teeth. Fissure sealants are special materials used by dentists to seal off pits and fissures from the oral environment. Sealing the tooth surface protects fissures from bacteria and fermentable foods like sugar and starches to prevent decay from starting deep within the fissures. Any tooth with pits and fissures can be treated, provided the surface to be filled is sound and has not been previously filled. The most commonly treated teeth are the molars and premolars.
Sealants are applied easily and painlessly. No drilling is required. The tooth is properly cleaned, treated, dried, and the sealant applied. It then hardens to form a protective coating over the tooth.
Many studies show sealants to be very effective in preventing decay in fissures. They do, however, require regular maintenance by your dentist. This can be performed with your six- monthly check-up. Recent studies show that a properly placed sealant will last as long as a typical amalgam filling. Even if a sealant is damaged or lost, it is easily repaired and replaced. Regular maintenance by your dentist will help them last. This can be done with your six-monthly check-up.
Enamel should be allowed to mature for at least 6 months in order to achieve a stable and more resistant structure. Timing of application of sealants is a balance between enamel maturation, level of risk of developing decay and behaviour of the child. Your dentist will advise you when it is best to apply sealants.
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