Dental sealants also known as fissure sealants are defined as a preventive dental treatment, where a plastic material is placed in the pits and fissures or chewing surfaces of primary or permanent molar & premolar teeth at the back of the mouth. These molar teeth are considered the most susceptible teeth to dental caries due to the anatomy of the chewing surfaces of these teeth, which unfortunately inhibits protection from saliva and fluoride and instead favours plaque accumulation.
Dental caries is a disease process that occurs within our mouths everyday. It can be described as the balance between loss and gain of minerals from a tooth surface. The loss of minerals from our teeth occurs from the bacteria within our mouths fermenting foods and producing acids, whereas the tooth gains minerals from our saliva and fluoride that is present within our mouths. When this balance is skewed due to frequent intake of fermentable carbohydrates, poor oral hygiene and lack of fluoride consumption there is a continuous loss and little gain of minerals over a long period of time, which can ultimately cause what we know as tooth decay.
Fissure sealants are a preventive treatment that is part of the minimal intervention dentistry approach to dental care. This approach facilitates prevention and early intervention, in order to prevent or stop the dental caries process before it reaches the ends stage of the disease, which is also known as the “hole” or cavitation of a tooth. Once the tooth is cavitated it requires a dental restoration in order to repair the damage, this emphasizes the importance of prevention in preserving our teeth for a lifetime of chewing. The aim of fissure sealants is to prevent or arrest the development of dental caries.
Preventing tooth decay from the pits and fissures of the teeth is achieved by the fissure sealants blocking these surfaces and therefore stopping food and bacteria from getting stuck in these grooves and fissures. Fissure sealants also provide a smooth surface that is easily accessible for both our natural protective factor, saliva and the toothbrush bristles when cleaning our teeth. Multiple oral health care professionals including a dentists, dental therapist, dental hygienist, an oral health therapist and dental assistants (in some states in the USA ) are able to apply dental sealants to teeth.