Cavities often develop on the chewing surfaces of teeth due to the presence of grooves. If one were to magnify the chewing surface of molar teeth, these grooves extend deep into the tooth, which allows a perfect habitat for bacteria to channel down into these microscopic deep grooves and create decay, or a cavity.
Sealants were introduced several years ago to decrease the number of chewing surface cavities on molars. It is quick and painless procedure that is preferably done as soon as the molar has completely erupted through the gum tissue. Eruption of permanent adult molars occurs when children reach the ages of 6 and 12. Around the age of 12, there will be a total of 8 permanent adult molars.
The tooth is first cleaned with a gel to disinfect the grooves, and the the liquid sealant is applied to the grooves. A special light is used to harden the liquid sealant in place. Sealants are held in place by physical bonds, unlike resin fillings which are held in place by chemical bonds. What that means is that it is possible for sealants to chip out of the grooves, if one bites down on a hard object with just the right amount of force at just the right angle. If a sealant chips out, it can easily be replaced by the general dentist or dental hygienist without removing any tooth structure.
Dental insurance covers sealants at 100% of the cost usually up to the age of 14 years. Placing sealants on your child’s molars is a preventative service. If a cavity develops in the grooves, a sealant cannot be placed on top of the cavity. The cavity must be drilled out, and then a permanent filling placed. It is best to gets sealants placed as soon as the permanent molar erupts completely through the gums, before bacteria has a chance to slip down into the microscopic grooves and create decay.