This Simple Process Can Save You From Future Fillings
Dental sealants act as a barrier to prevent cavities. They are a plastic material usually applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth (premolars and molars) where decay occurs most often.
Thorough brushing and flossing help remove food particles and plaque from smooth surfaces of teeth. But toothbrush bristles can’t always reach all the way into the depressions and grooves to extract food and plaque. And fluoride in toothpaste and in drinking water protects the smooth surfaces of teeth but back teeth need extra protection.
Sealants protect these vulnerable areas by “sealing out” plaque and food. The sugar in this food is used by germs in the mouth to make acids. Over time, the acids can make a cavity in the tooth.
Why Get Sealants?
A healthy tooth is the best tooth, so it is important to prevent decay. That’s why sealants are so important. Having sealants put on teeth before they decay will also save time and money in the long run by avoiding fillings, crowns, or caps used to fix decayed teeth.
Who Should Get Sealants?
Children should get sealants on their permanent molars as soon as the teeth come in – before decay attacks the teeth.
The first permanent molars – called “6 year molars” – come in between the ages of 5 and 7.
The second permanent molars – “12 year molars” – come in when a child is between 11 and 14 years old. Other teeth with pits and grooves also might need to be sealed.
Baby teeth save space for permanent teeth. It is important to keep baby teeth healthy so they don’t fall out early. Your dentist might think sealants are a good idea, especially if your child’s baby teeth have deep pits and grooves.
Can Dental Sealants Be Placed on Adult Teeth?
Yes while less common, dental sealants are sometimes placed in adults at risk for caries, on deep grooves and fissures that do not already have fillings or dental sealants.
How Are Sealants Applied?
Applying sealant is a simple and painless process. It takes only a few minutes for your dentist or hygienist to apply the sealant to seal each tooth. The application steps are as follows:
- First the teeth that are to be sealed are thoroughly cleaned.
- Each tooth is then dried, and cotton or another absorbent material is put around the tooth to keep it dry.
- An acid solution is put on the chewing surfaces of the teeth to roughen them up, which helps the sealant bond to the teeth.
- The teeth are then rinsed and dried.
- Sealant is then painted onto the tooth enamel, where it bonds directly to the tooth and hardens. Sometimes a special curing light is used to help the sealant harden.
Even if a small cavity accidently gets covered the decay will not spread, because it is sealed off from its food and germ supply.
How Long Do Sealants Last?
Sealants can last up to 10 years. But they need to be checked at regular dental check-ups to make sure they are not chipped or worn away. The dentist or dental hygienist can repair sealants by adding more sealant material.
Do Sealants Prevent Gum Disease?
No. Dental sealants do not protect against gum disease such as gingivitis, oral cancer or many common dental conditions. Regular dental checkups are vital to monitor overall oral health.
Are Sealants Visible?
Sealants can only be seen up close. Sealants can be clear, white, or slightly tinted, and usually are not seen when a child talks or smiles.
Sources: MouthHealthy.org, National Institute for Dental and Craniofacial Research, KnowYourTeeth.com, Colgate, American Dental Association (ADA)