For many parents of school aged young children, you may have heard the term “pit and fissure sealants” mentioned by parents of your children’s friends or therapists in the dental vans. So just what do fissure sealants do and what does the process involve for your children?
What are fissures and why do dentists seal them?
Adult molar teeth (the big ones at the back) have natural hills and valleys as part of normal anatomy. The hills are “cusps” and the valleys are called “fissures”. In some people these fissures can resemble deep crevices that jam and trap food. This predisposes these teeth to decay, as the trapped food attacts and feeds bacteria. It is extremely difficult, if not impossible to clean these areas with just a toothbrush as the decay can start undermining the chewing surface of the tooth.
Fissure sealing is a quick, minimally invasive preventative procedure that aims to stop food from trapping in the fissures by sealing them with a flowable filling material along the length of the crevice. The seal acts to “bounce” food out when chewing instead of jamming it further within the tooth. A fissure sealant can protect the chewing surface of those new adult molars and is less expensive or time consuming than having a filling done on your child after decay settles in. Some people have naturally good anatomy for not trapping food in their teeth and may not require fissure sealants, it is best to ask your dentist whether this is the case for you as everybody’s teeth are different.
What age is it done?
We often aim to seal the 6 year old molars if required when they first fully erupt around the age of 6 or 7. This is to make sure we keep the tooth as pristine as possible, getting it protected before it has had time for decay to develop after coming through the gums. Fissure sealants may be applicable in some adolescent and adult patients who have very very shallow decay or deep fissures with no decay that require protection.
Will the procedure take long?
The procedure is quick and the majority of cases do not require any anaesthetic. It is a very good “first time procedure” for children without needing to cut into tooth structure.
How long does it last?
Fissure sealants usually have a lifespan of about 2 years before needing to be replaced. This can range to 5 or 6 years without requiring to be replaced.
Remember, everyone’s teeth are different, so it’s best to talk to your dentist to see if fissure sealants are suitable for you. If your children are starting school and have just gone through the excitement of getting their first adult molars, it may help to protect those shiny new adult teeth with preventative fissure sealants. Please call (07) 3844 6071 today and make a dental appointment to talk to our friendly dental team.
Don’t forget to keep brushing those teeth, and we will see you at your family’s next checkup!
About Our Author:
Dr Will Wang:
Dr Will Wang has been a dentist at Highgate Hill Dental Centre since 2008. He aims to make seeing the dentist a positive, happy experience for the whole family, and enjoys making it a fun visit for children. Will has a particular interest in preventative and restorative dentistry; and spends a lot of time explaining concepts to empower patients with the ability to maintain their own dental health between visits.