Dental sealants are a protective barrier, covering the most vulnerable surface of the teeth and shielding them from cavity-causing bacteria. The sealants are most commonly applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth (premolars and molars) where decay occurs most frequently. They can also be applied to any deep pit or groove that is high risk for decay, including the back of upper front teeth.
How does a sealant help prevent decay?
A sealant is a dental material that is applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth—premolars and molars. This material has a micromechanical bond to enamel in the deep pits and grooves of the chewing surfaces of back teeth. The sealant acts as a barrier, protecting enamel from plaque, bacteria and acids.
Thorough brushing and flossing help remove food particles and plaque from smooth surfaces of teeth. But in some cases, toothbrush bristles cannot reach the depth of pits and grooves to extract food and plaque. Sealants protect these vulnerable areas by filling in the grooves to prevent any accumulation of bacteria, plaque or food, and by creating a shallower, more cleansable surface for the toothbrush.
Is sealant application a complicated procedure?
Sealants are easy for your dentist or dental hygienist to apply, and it takes only a few minutes to seal each tooth. The teeth that will be sealed are cleaned. Then the chewing surfaces are roughened with an etching solution to help the sealant adhere to the tooth. The 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.
The only difficult aspects of sealant application are the bad taste of the materials used and the need to keep the tooth dry. If a child is very cooperative, the sealant can be applied without his or her ever tasting the materials. There is no pain associated with the application of a sealant.
Sealants are just for kids, right?
The likelihood of developing pit and fissure decay begins early in life, so children and teenagers are obvious candidates. Children typically do not have the manual dexterity necessary to adequately clean their teeth, so they are at a higher risk of developing cavities. Adults can benefit from sealants as well. An easy way to determine where a sealant would be most beneficial for an adult is to look for dark stains in the pits and grooves of the teeth. A deep crevice that is accumulating stain which cannot be removed by brushing is a high-risk area for a cavity to start. If it is collecting
stain, it is also collecting bacteria. Over a period of time, the bacteria is very likely to start damaging the enamel surface, leading to a cavity.
“CDC Promotes Dental Sealants in New Report
According to a new U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Vital Signs report, dental sealants are an extremely effective intervention for preventing most of the cavities children get in their permanent back teeth, but the majority of children still don’t have them. The report also found that children from low-income families, who are at increased risk for cavities, are less likely than children from higher-income families to have dental sealants. Increasing sealant use prevalence could substantially reduce untreated decay, associated problems, and dental treatment costs, the CDC report concludes.
Additional findings of the report include:
School-age children (ages 6-11) without sealants have almost three times more first molar cavities than those with sealants.
Although the overall number of children with sealants has increased over time, low-income children are 20 percent less likely to have them and two times more likely to have untreated cavities than higher-income children.”
Once a tooth already has decay, it cannot be sealed. The decay must be removed and restored with a filling. A one surface filling to fix this type of cavity costs over $200. Placing sealants can prevent this type of decay, decreasing your costs for dental care in the long run. A thorough evaluation of all of your teeth should be performed by your dentist to determine which teeth could benefit from sealants.
Do sealants last forever?
As long as the sealant remains intact, the tooth surface will be protected from decay. Sealants hold up well under the force of normal chewing and usually last several years before a reapplication is needed. They can be damaged by habits such as teeth grinding and chewing ice. During your dental evaluations, Dr. Chowning will confirm the effectiveness of the sealants and have them re-applied when necessary.
Would you like to know more about sealants?
Call our office at 940-382-1750 to set up an evaluation with Dr. Chowning.