The grooves and pits on the biting surfaces of children’s teeth can be particularly at risk from dental decay. A fissure sealant is a plastic coating, which when applied to these grooves and pits can protect them from decay.
If a small amount of decay has already occurred in part of a fissure the decay must be removed. Provided the resulting cavity is small a sealant restoration can still be used to fill the hole and seal the remaining fissures.
Fissure sealants and sealant restorations are applied to the permanent back teeth (the molars and premolars). Deciduous teeth (milk teeth) are not normally treated.
Not all back teeth need sealing. Where the grooves and pits are particularly deep, or a child has already experienced dental decay in their milk teeth then fissure sealants are indicated. Sealants are usually applied as soon as the permanent back teeth come through (between 6 and 14 years of age), provided the child is old enough to tolerate the procedure.
Where early decay is spotted on the biting surface of a child’s permanent back tooth then a sealant restoration may be appropriate. If the remaining back teeth have not been sealed already then it might be appropriate to consider fissure sealing them before decay can occur under any of the other grooves or pits.
Fissure sealing is painless and should not require anaesthetic.
A sealant restoration or fissure sealant reduces the risk of decay occurring on the biting surface of a tooth. The sides of the tooth are still at risk of decay and, in time, decay could still occur under the sealant. Regular checking of the sealant will help to identify if the seal needs to be topped up, repaired or replaced.