Dental sealants, simply fissure sealants are a dental treatment intended to prevent tooth decay. Teeth have recesses on their biting surfaces; the back teeth have fissures (grooves) and some front teeth have cingulum pits. It is these pits and fissures which are most vulnerable to tooth decay, partly because food sticks in them and they are hard to clean areas. Dental sealants are materials placed in these pits and fissures to fill them in, creating a smooth surface that is easy to clean. Dental sealants are mainly used in children who are at higher risk of tooth decay, and typically they are placed as soon as the adult molar teeth come through.
Dental caries is the balance between loss and gain of minerals from a tooth surface. The loss of minerals from our teeth occurs from the bacteria within our mouths fermenting foods and producing acids, whereas the tooth gains minerals from our saliva and fluoride that is present within our mouths. When this balance is skewed due to frequent intake of fermentable carbohydrates, poor oral hygiene and lack of fluoride consumption there is a continuous loss and little gain of minerals over a long period of time, which can ultimately cause what we know as tooth decay. Fissure sealants are a preventive treatment that is part of the minimal intervention dentistry approach to dental care. This approach facilitates prevention and early intervention, in order to prevent or stop the dental caries process before it reaches the ends stage of the disease, which is also known as the "hole" or cavitation of a tooth. Once the tooth is cavitated it requires a dental restoration in order to repair the damage, this emphasizes the importance of prevention in preserving our teeth for a lifetime of chewing.