Fissure sealants are a simple treatment at the dentist that can be used to prevent tooth decay. They are most commonly used on children but adults can have them too. The idea is to seal the tooth and to keep out bacteria and plaque. But do fissure sealants actually work? And is it worth having your child’s teeth sealed?
What is a fissure sealant?
Your back teeth are made up of cusps and fissures. The cusps are the pointy bits. The fissures are the little cracks and valleys that naturally run through these teeth. Sometimes, the fissures in teeth can be so deep that it is impossible to get the toothbrush bristles in there to clean. Bacteria can hide in these deep fissures and cause tooth decay.
A fissure sealant is simply when a dentist seals up the deep fissures. The tooth is cleaned, dried and then sealed. It’s ever so simple.
But do they actually work?
The clever people at the Cochrane Group looked at 38 studies that involved nearly 8000 young people to find out if fissure sealants do actually make a difference in preventing tooth decay. They found that, yes, children who had had their back teeth sealed had less tooth decay in their back teeth. One of their key findings was that, after 2 years, fissure sealed back teeth were up to 50% less likely to have tooth decay than non-sealed back teeth. They even found benefits up to 9 years after having fissure sealants.
They also looked at whether there was any evidence for problems caused by fissure sealants. The researchers could not find any reported problems with having fissure sealants. Sounds great!
Can we believe these results?
Researchers decided that the quality of the evidence was reasonable and that we can trust the results. However, they did mention that most of the research was carried out in the 1970’s and new evidence would be handy.
So good news about fissure sealants!
Fissure sealants are not always required. If your child doesn’t have deep fissures in their teeth then there may be no point.
But it seems that fissure sealants really do work. My mum will be pleased because she asked the dentist to fissure seal my teeth when I was about 10 years old. She still goes on about it because she thinks that it’s one of the cleverest things that she’s ever done. And it turns out that she was right.