Decay commonly occurs on the biting surfaces of back teeth - these are the surfaces that food is ground on. Teeth are naturally shaped with peaks & grooves to chew food well.
When a molar is healthy but has deep ridges or fissures on the biting surface it is at risk of developing decay due to food getting trapped.. This is the ideal situation to place a fissure sealant. This is a resin material which is placed into the cracks on the tooth surface & set hard with a special light. This makes the tooth flatter, stops food getting stuck in it & protects it from harm.
The process of placing a fissure sealants is quite straightforward. The tooth surface is cleaned really well with a special pumice paste then etched & washed before the resin is applied & set with a blue light. The surface needs to be kept dry duirng this or the fissure sealant will not stick properly to the surface. Most children cope well with this easy proceedure although they complain about the taste!!
We will recommend Fissure sealants for some primary molars when it is necessary - for example if there has been decay in other teeth or if the grooves are very deep.
We will commonly recommend fissure sealants on the first permanent molars that erupt at age 6 years. These are adult teeth & need to live a long life so preventing decay is very important.
This Diagram shows the deep groove (fissure) in the biting surface of the tooth that can trap food & plaque. The fissure sealant material prevents this happening.
When possible we will place a tooth coloured, resin fissure sealant but in some situations we may use a pink/orange material called glass ionomer. These are indicated when children find it hard to co-operate with the process of fissure sealants, have a strong gag reflex or if the tooth is very sensitive. These fissure sealants are excellent at preventing decay but do not tend to last as long as traditional fissure sealants & may need to be refreshed more frequently.