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Dental sealants, often referred to as just sealants, are protective barriers put over the teeth that are most prone to cavities – usually the back teeth, including the molars and premolars. Made of strong, plastic resin, dental sealants are applied in fluid form and made to harden with a special light. Dental sealants are most often applied to children’s teeth once their first molars appear to protect them during the years teeth are at the most risk of developing cavities. However, dental sealants can be applied to any sound, natural tooth at any age.
The application of dental sealants is quick and simple and is done in one visit. Typically, a dental hygienist applies the sealants, but in some cases the dentist may perform the procedure. The back teeth are the targeted areas for dental sealants because these teeth have tiny, pitted grooves that even routine brushing and flossing can easily miss.
Dental sealants are applied to clean, dry teeth. The liquid sealant is applied and made to flow over the teeth and into the grooves before it is hardened into a permanent seal. Some dental sealants will harden on their own and some are made to harden with the use of a special light inserted into the mouth and aimed at the tooth. Once the dental sealants have hardened, the patient can eat and drink immediately with no consequence to the treated teeth.
Though dental sealants are a fairly new concept in the scope of dentistry, most research indicates that they will last many years with proper oral hygiene. Patients who receive dental sealants should avoid chewing and breaking hard candy to help prolong the sealants. Once dental sealants are applied, a dentist will continue to check them during routine dental exams for signs of wear. Dental sealants can considerably minimize the risk of cavities in hard to clean teeth, especially in children. The cost of dental sealants varies with location and practice, but is considered inexpensive compared to repairs and fillings.
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