On Tuesdays and Thursdays in July, the Knox County Health Department’s Dental Program will offer free dental sealants for those between 6 and 21 years of age at InterFaith Health Clinic, 315 Gill Ave. Appointments are required by calling 865-215-5157. Those interested do not have to be InterFaith patients to receive this service, nor will they become established InterFaith patients after receiving sealants.
Sealants are an important part of total preventive dental care for children, teens and young adults. A complete preventive dental program also includes fluoride, twice-daily brushing, wise food choices and regular dental care.
What is a dental sealant?
Dental sealants are thin plastic coatings that are applied to the grooves on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth to protect them from tooth decay. Most tooth decay in children and teens occurs on these surfaces. Sealants protect the chewing surfaces from tooth decay by keeping germs and food particles out of these grooves.
Which teeth are suitable for sealants?
Permanent molars are the most likely to benefit from sealants. The first molars usually come in when a child is about 6 years old. Second molars appear around age 12. It is best if the sealant is applied soon after the teeth have appeared, before they have a chance to decay.
How are sealants applied?
Applying sealants does not require drilling or removing tooth structure. The process is short and easy. After the tooth is cleaned, a special gel is placed on the chewing surface for a few seconds. The tooth is then washed off and dried. Then, the sealant is painted on the tooth. The dentist or dental hygienist also may shine a light on the tooth to help harden the sealant. It takes about a minute for the sealant to form a protective shield.
Are sealants visible?
Sealants can only be seen up close. Sealants can be clear, white, or slightly tinted, and usually are not seen when someone talks or smiles.
Will sealants make teeth feel different?
As with anything new that is placed in the mouth, the patient may feel the sealant with the tongue. Sealants, however, are very thin and only fill the pits and grooves of molar teeth.
How long will sealants last?
A sealant can last for as long as 5 to 10 years. Sealants should be checked at your regular dental appointment and can be reapplied if they are no longer in place.
Will sealants replace fluoride for cavity protection?
No. Fluorides, such as those used in toothpaste, mouth rinse, and community water supplies also help to prevent decay, but in a different way. Sealants keep germs and food particles out of the grooves by covering them with a safe plastic coating. Sealants and fluorides work together to prevent tooth decay.
For more information about the Knox County Health Department’s Dental Program, including the School-based Dental Program, please click here.