What are fissure sealants?
Dental fissure sealants are a protective layer applied on the chewing teeth (the molars) to reduce tooth decay. Applying a sealant is quick and painless and can be done by your dental practitioner.
Sealant is most commonly applied to the grooves, known as fissures, and pits of the back molars. These are the most common locations for cavities in the teeth. The procedure can be done by a dentist, a dental hygienist or an oral health therapist.
Fissure sealants are a white or clear composite resin, similar to a white tooth filling. The sealants provide a barrier against bacteria that can cause plaque. They are designed to prevent tooth decay and cavities.
When might someone need fissure sealants?
Your dentist might advise you to have fissure sealants if you have large grooves or pits in your teeth. However, you should discuss with your dentist whether or not they are necessary. Not all teeth with fissures need sealants.
Some dentists will recommend sealants for the first molar teeth, which appear at around 6 years old. The back teeth (second and third molars) emerge at around 13 years and should be checked to see whether sealants might help. Some adults also get sealants.
Your dentist might recommend a sealant if there is already some tooth decay. The sealant can help limit future decay.
What happens during a dental fissure sealants procedure?
Having fissure sealants applied is a quick and painless procedure. It usually takes a few minutes per tooth and is less complicated than having a cavity filling. There is no need for anaesthetic and usually no drilling.
Your dental practitioner will:
- clean and dry the tooth
- prepare the tooth surface so that the sealant bonds well
- paint on the liquid sealant, which will flow into the deep grooves and pits
- bond and harden the sealant with a strong light
- check your bite and polish off any excess sealant
What to expect after a dental fissure sealants procedure
Sometimes the sealant falls off — this will usually happen within 6 months. It is a good idea to visit the dentist regularly so they can make sure the sealant is in good condition as part of your routine dental check-up. It can wear down over the of years and will then need to be reapplied.
What are the benefits and risks of fissure sealants?
Sealants are a simple and effective means to reduce tooth decay. They provide extra protection from decay, even to those who drink fluoridated water and brush with fluoride toothpaste. The fluoride in water and toothpaste doesn't easily reach into deep grooves or pits. Even the bristles of a toothbrush might not reach that far.
Complications are rare but may include an allergic reaction to the sealant, or a change in your bite if the sealant layer is thick.
How much does it cost to get fissure sealants?
Fissure sealants cost around $40 to $90 per tooth.
What are the alternatives to fissure sealants?
Fluoride varnish can be applied to the teeth by a dental practitioner. However, fluoride varnishes are mostly used in young children at high risk of developing of cavities. They need to be applied 2 to 4 times each year.
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Last reviewed: September 2020