Fissure sealants – to seal or not to seal?
What if there was a simple, painless way to prevent cavities, especially in children?
Well, there is a way, and they are called fissure sealants.
What are fissure sealants?
Our back molars have deep, narrow grooves and pits on their chewing surfaces, which are sometimes too fine for toothbrush bristles to reach the base of and clean well. This means that, despite our best efforts with toothbrushing, food and plaque can get trapped within these grooves and cause decay and cavities.
Fissure sealants are a protective, hard coating on top of these chewing surfaces. Their benefits include
- Providing a barrier against bacteria that can cause plaque and decay
- Prevent food from getting trapped in the teeth
- Provide a smoother surface for easier and better tooth cleaning
Does my child need fissure sealants?
Fissure sealants are a cost effective way to prevent cavities. The best time to get fissure sealants for a child is usually soon after their first permanent molars appear in the mouth – usually around 6 years of age, and then again at around 12 years old when the second permanent molars erupt. Some adults might also benefit from fissure sealants, especially if they have deep grooves and fissures on their molars.
Of course, not every tooth will require a fissure sealant. We assess every child and adult based on an individual basis, and will recommend them if they are likely to benefit from a fissure sealant. These factors include:
- Dental confidence
- When their tooth is likely to fall out
- Oral hygiene
- Diet and history of decay
However, overall, fissure sealants are an effective way to prevent decay, combined with good oral hygiene, a low sugar diet and 6 monthly visits to the dentist. If you ensure that your child is coming regularly, our dentists can closely monitor existing sealants and assess the decay risk of any other erupting teeth and provide advice accordingly.
How long do fissure sealants last?
Fissure sealants can last up to a few years and can withstand daily chewing forces. Because everyone is different though, they can vary in how long they last before wearing down. This will depend on the conditions in which the fissure sealant was placed, for example, if there was difficulty in placing the fissure sealant on the tooth. Fissure sealants can be topped up over time though.
Does it hurt to get fissure sealants?
Not at all! Fissure sealants are painless and can be placed quite quickly. Sometimes there may be some drilling involved but no local anaesthetic is needed. The process involves
- Cleaning and drying the tooth
- The tooth surface is prepared with an etchant and then washed off and dried
- The liquid sealant is then placed on the tooth and this will flow into the grooves and fissures
- The sealant is hardened and set with a special light
- Your bite is then check and the sealant is polished down if there is excess
For sealants to last, the tooth must be very very dry, so cotton rolls or a rubber dam is placed in the mouth to keep them dry.
We will usually aim to get all required fissure sealants done in the one appointment (usually four), however, if your child is finding it hard to stay still for an extended period of time, we might only manage two – in which case we can always try again at another visit.
What to expect after getting a fissure sealant
Your child will be able to eat soon after the appointment. To help make the fissure sealant last though, you will need to ensure that they are practising good oral hygiene and brushing their teeth well. You should also ensure that they have a healthy diet and that they are returning for regular six monthly check ups. Because nothing lasts forever, the fissure sealants will eventually wear down over time and they might chip and leak, allowing bacteria to seep in underneath the fissure sealant. Our dentists will take X-rays periodically as well as do a thorough visual examination to make sure that these teeth are not at risk of decay. They might need to be replaced if this is the case.
If you would like to discuss more about fissure sealants and whether your child should get them, contact us on (03) 9069 3266 or book a consultation online and our friendly dentists will be happy to discuss the procedure in more detail with you.