Pit and Fissure Sealants


Dr. Abenaa Ayeh


What are pit and fissure sealants?

Pit and fissure sealants were first developed in the 1960's. A sealant is a plastic resin material. It is primarily applied to the chewing surfaces of premolars and molars, the back teeth used for chewing.


How do pit and fissure sealants work?

Molars and premolars contain depressions and grooves, known as pits and fissures, on their biting surfaces. Brushing and flossing remains, an effective method of removing plaque and food particles from the non-biting smooth surfaces of teeth. Effective brushing and flossing cannot clean the bases and bottoms of pits and fissures, as toothbrush bristles are neither long nor thin enough to do so. This is where sealants come into play. Sealants, which are composed of a plastic resin, flow and bond into the pits and fissures, thereby creating a barrier. Plaque and food debris are in essence “sealed out” and the difficult to clean areas are protected.

Sealants also create an environment devoid of air. The cavity causing bacteria require oxygen, found in air, to survive. If decay has begun in a fissure, because the bacteria are deprived of oxygen, the spread of decay will be halted. Pit and fissure sealants prevent the propagation of decay in two ways.


Which teeth can receive sealants?

Sealants are placed on teeth containing deep pits and fissures, on their biting surfaces. Sealants are primarily placed on the molars and premolars, as they are most likely to contain deep pits and fissures on their biting surfaces. The plastic resin material has properties amenable to flowing into and filling deep pits and grooves. As the fronts, backs, and sides of teeth are smooth surfaces, the sealant material will not stay on those surfaces, hence sealants are not applied to those surfaces. Also, if a tooth contains a filling, it will not have a sealant placed.

Ideally, as soon as a child’s permanent molars erupt, or fully enter the mouth, they should receive sealants, as a decay preventing measure. (First and second permanent molars erupt at approximately 6 and 12 years or age respectively.) The sooner the sealant is placed following its eruption into the mouth the better. The greatest risk of a tooth becoming decayed, is during its first three years, in the mouth.


How long do sealants last?

Some have reported sealants remaining viable for up to 10 years. Most report sealants lasting for approximately 5 -10 years. At dental check ups, the integrity of previously applied sealants are evaluated and may need to be replaced. Sealants require regular monitoring.


How are sealants placed?

Anesthetic is not required for sealant placement. A tooth is conditioned with a weak acid, rinsed, and dried. The sealant or liquid resin material is painted onto the biting surface of the tooth. Finally, a special blue light is applied to set the sealant.

The placement of sealants is a painless procedure that can prevent the formation of cavities on in the pit and fissures of the biting surfaces of teeth. In conjunction with regular dental check ups and good oral hygiene regimens sealants effectively prevent dental decay.


Taken from the UBC Dentistry Website: http://www.dentistry.ubc.ca/GPR/CommunityPrograms/Skidegate/ObserverArticles/2006-07/pit_and_fissure_sealants.htm