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A dental sealant is a thin plastic resin coating painted on the crown (chewing surface) of the teeth. Sealants are most commonly applied to molars and premolars, or to any deeply-grooved areas to seal teeth and prevent tooth decay. When a tooth has deep grooves or pits, it is more difficult to clean and likely to develop decay. Once the sealant is applied, an ultraviolet light is used to cure the sealant to the tooth enamel. The procedure seals out plaque and acids by creating a smooth surface.
Sealants are most commonly recommended for children. They are typically applied to their permanent molars and premolars as soon as these teeth come in. A sealant protects the teeth during the years when children are most prone to cavities. Adults may also be candidates for sealants, especially if they do not yet have decay or fillings.
First, the tooth is prepared by thoroughly cleaning and drying it. Then the surface of the tooth is roughened slightly, allowing the sealant to grip the tooth. The tooth is then cleaned and dried again. Next, the sealant is painted onto the surface of the tooth. Once the sealant is applied, a curing light will then affixes and dries it to a strong, permanent finish. Dental sealants can typically protect teeth for up to 10 years.