Back teeth, called premolars and molars, have intricate fissures and grooves in the chewing surfaces that are designed for grinding and breaking down food more easily. However, these fissures can trap bacteria and food, and because they are quite deep, they are difficult to clean thoroughly. Consequently, these tooth surfaces often become infected and decayed. Fissure sealants are a non-invasive treatment that protects these vulnerable surfaces.
Usually, we recommend applying fissure sealants to children’s adult back teeth soon after they erupt, and before any tooth decay can begin. Fissure sealants can only be used to protect teeth that do not have cavities or fillings, which is why we recommend their application soon after adult back teeth erupt. Sometimes teeth that have tiny lesions indicating the early signs of tooth decay can have fissure sealants. Sealing these teeth prevent the bacteria from causing more damage and infection, but it is only rarely we can use this approach when treating tooth decay.
Occasionally we might suggest protecting a child’s milk or primary teeth with fissure sealants. This treatment can be useful when milk teeth have especially deep fissures and are prone to tooth decay. It is essential to protect milk teeth and to ensure they remain healthy until they are ready to be shed naturally and replaced with adult teeth. Premature loss of primary teeth can negatively affect the development of adult teeth, so it is important to try and prevent this from happening.
Fissure sealants are a layer of thin, flowable plastic material that we paint onto newly-cleaned tooth surfaces. Once on the tooth, the sealant soon hardens forming a durable protective coating that prevents bacteria and food from becoming trapped in the chewing surfaces. Instead, the sealed surface is smooth and easy to keep clean. Fissure sealants should last for years, and we can check their condition regularly and if needed can replace them.
The procedure for fissure sealants is very straightforward and painless and there is no need for anaesthesia. After cleaning your child’s teeth thoroughly, we prepare the tooth surfaces for application, using a special liquid that lightly etches these surfaces, creating a stronger bond between the sealant and the tooth. Teeth are rinsed and dried before the sealant is painted onto the tooth surfaces. We can allow the fissure sealants to harden naturally or use blue light to accelerate the process.