What are dental sealants?
Many of your back teeth come in with deep grooves. Bacteria can get down in these grooves and cause cavities. Sealants work by sealing over these grooves and making the biting surface of the tooth more of a smooth surface. This is much easier to clean and doesn’t allow bacteria and food to get stuck in the grooves.
Do dental sealants prevent cavities?
Study after study has shown that dental sealants help reduce occlusal (biting surface) decay in children by nearly 80%. They don’t replace the need for fluoride or good brushing and flossing. You can still get decay in a different spot on a tooth or around the sealant if you aren’t taking care of your teeth.
What are sealants made out of?
Sealants are made out of a very similar material to what is used for white dental fillings. It is basically a plastic type material.
When should sealants be done?
The teeth that benefit most from sealants are the permanent molar teeth. Your first set of four molar teeth come in around age 6 and you have a second set that come in around age 12. Ideally sealants should be done as soon as the tooth comes in. Some offices will also do sealants on the premolar teeth (the two teeth in front of your molars). These teeth usually come in around age 10-12. Sealants on these teeth aren’t nearly as beneficial as on molars because they don’t have as extensive grooves.
How long do sealants last?
A well done sealant will often last 5 years and occasionally up to 10 years. Poor oral hygiene and diet can contribute to the sealant being lost early.
How are sealants placed?
A dentist, hygienist, or dental assistant can all place sealants. No numbing or drilling is necessary. The tooth is cleaned with a special type of toothpaste and then rinsed off. Then an acid gel is placed on the tooth to “etch” the enamel allowing the sealant material to bond the tooth. The gel is then rinsed off and the sealant material flowed into the grooves of the teeth. A special dental curing is then used to harden the material in place. Most sealants only take a couple of minutes as long as the tooth can be kept dry during the procedure.
Are there any concerns about sealants?
There are two major concerns. The first is that the sealant material, being made out of plastic, does contain small amounts of BPA. BPA is known to have some estrogen type effects on the body and there has been some concern in the medical community recently about it’s effects. Fortunately, studies have shown that the exposure to BPA in sealants is extremely minimal as compared to your other daily exposures to it (approximately 1% of the total). The second concern is that if the sealants aren’t done well and don’t seal the tooth it can trap plaque and bacteria under the sealant material. This can create a cavity that won’t be able to be seen until it is large.