We all know we have to brush our teeth several times a day. Floss regularly. Don’t eat or drink sugar, alcohol, or soda. But even if we do all of this, cavities can occur.
Did you know there is actually a way to prevent them? Dental sealants form a protective layer over molars and premolars. They are safe to use on children; the procedure to apply them on the teeth is easy and painless. Want to know more? Learn all about the real pros and cons of dental sealants in this guide.
What are dental sealants?
Dental sealants are thin, protective coatings applied to the chewing surfaces of teeth, particularly the molars and premolars. These areas are more prone to decay due to their grooves and pits. That makes it challenging to clean them effectively with regular brushing and flossing. The sealant material is usually made of a safe, plastic resin that bonds to the tooth enamel, creating a barrier against harmful bacteria and acids that can lead to cavities. The back teeth are where nine out of ten dental caries occur.* So, dental sealants effectively prevent cavities.
The process of applying dental sealants
The application of dental sealants is quick and painless and is typically performed by a skilled dentist or dental hygienist. This can often be done on a routine checkup.
The procedure is very straightforward. It begins with thoroughly cleaning the teeth to remove any plaque or debris, ensuring that the sealant adheres effectively to the tooth surface.
Once the teeth are clean, we proceed to isolate them with a rubber dam or cotton rolls around them. This step is crucial as it helps to keep the teeth dry during the application process, ensuring the sealant bonds properly to the enamel.
With the teeth isolated and dry, we carefully apply the liquid sealant onto the chewing surfaces of the teeth. The sealant material is usually a safe plastic resin, which flows into the deep grooves and pits of the molars and premolars. By doing so, the sealant creates a protective barrier that acts as a shield against harmful bacteria and acids that can cause cavities.
After the sealant is applied, it quickly starts to bond with the enamel. In some cases, we may use a special curing light to expedite the hardening process, ensuring that the sealant sets properly and becomes durable. Once the sealant has fully set, we check the patient’s bite to ensure that there are no interferences or misalignment caused by the sealant application.
There is no drilling involved in the placement of dental sealants. In fact, that’s exactly what we aim to prevent.
The pros of dental sealants
There are many benefits to dental sealants, which have made them a widely recommended preventive treatment in modern dentistry.
- Protection against decay
Dental sealants act as a formidable barrier, shielding vulnerable tooth surfaces from bacteria and acids that cause decay. Studies have shown that sealants can reduce the risk of cavities by up to 80% * in the first year after placement, and continue to offer protection for several years.
- It’s a non-invasive and painless procedure
Unlike dental fillings, sealant application does not require drilling or tooth structure removal. It is a non-invasive and painless procedure, making it particularly suitable for children and people that have dental anxiety.
- Cost-effective preventive measure
Preventing dental problems is always more cost-effective than treating them when they occur. Dental sealants are an excellent investment in your long-term oral health, potentially saving you from the need for more extensive and expensive dental treatments down the road. A classic win-win.
When properly cared for, dental sealants can last for many years. Ten years, easily. During all this time, they’ll protect your teeth. Regular dental check-ups are still necessary, also to check that the sealants remain intact and functional.
- Improved oral health for children
Children are often more susceptible to cavities. They’re still learning to care for their teeth. Plus, they often eat more sweets. And, hopefully, fruits. As soon as permanent teeth come in (and are still free from decay), dental sealants can protect them in cavity-prone years. Applying sealants to their permanent molars as soon as they erupt can significantly reduce the risk of cavities and promote a lifetime of better oral health.
The cons of dental sealants
While dental sealants offer numerous advantages, you may also want to consider potential drawbacks that might influence your decision.
- They’re not for everyone
Dental sealants are primarily suitable for the chewing surfaces of molars and premolars. They may not be applicable to other areas of the mouth. Also, they’re meant to cover minor grooves. If the surface of your teeth is very irregular, or grooves are deeper than normal, sealants may not be possible.
- Timing of application
Sealants are most effective when applied to newly erupted, cavity-free teeth. If cavities have already formed, the tooth first requires a different dental treatment. The bacteria will first have to be removed completely.
Although dental sealants are durable, they are not permanent. Over time, the sealant material may wear off, requiring replacement to maintain the protective benefits. In people with acid reflux or with very acidic diets, they may not last as long. Teeth grinding will also impact their durability.
Often sealants are placed on the new teeth of growing children. However, the molars and premolars don’t all occur at the same time. They are usually placed throughout the years.
Some resin-based dental sealants contain BPA, although currently, most are BPA-free.
BPA stands for Bisphenol A. It can potentially leach out and enter the body, leading to concerns about its potential health effects. Research has suggested that BPA may have hormone-disrupting properties, as it can mimic estrogen, a natural hormone in the body.
However, there is very little BPA in dental sealants. Research conducted by the American Dental Association shows that BPA release from dental sealants is very low (.09 nanograms).
To understand this: 1 nanogram is equal to 0.000000001 grams. A grain of sugar weighs approximately 0.02 grams. Imagine taking an incredibly tiny fraction of a single grain of sugar, approximately 1/222,222,222 of a grain, and that’s roughly the amount of BPA released from dental sealants.
Furthermore, BPA disappears completely from saliva levels within 24 hours of placing the sealants.
The risks of BPA seem much smaller than those of tooth decay.
- Proper oral hygiene is still necessary
While dental sealants offer excellent protection, they do not replace the need for regular brushing, flossing, and dental check-ups. Proper oral hygiene practices remain crucial to maintaining overall oral health.
Dental sealants are a valuable tool in the prevention of tooth decay, particularly for children and teenagers. Their ability to provide exceptional protection against cavities, along with their non-invasive application, makes them a popular choice in modern dentistry.
At Mint Dental, we are committed to offering the most up-to-date information and expert dental care. If you have any questions about dental sealants or any other aspect of your oral health, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.
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