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Dental sealants are a thin coating applied to the chewing surfaces of the teeth. Sealants protect the vulnerable nooks and crannies of back teeth, preventing the build-up of food and plaque and helping to prevent tooth decay. Sealants reduce the risk of cavities on permanent molars by 80%, according to the American Dental Association.
However, there remain misconceptions and confusion about dental sealants. Among the biggest questions:
- Are dental sealants safe?
- How long do dental sealants last?
- Can dental sealants be removed?
- Do dental sealants for children really reduce risk of cavities?
At our Austin, TX office, we hear questions like these from patients every day. We’ve assembled answers that hould help you gain a better understanding of dental sealants and why you should consider them. We’ll even discuss dental sealants for adults.
What Are Dental Sealants?
Think of dental sealants as an umbrella. They shade teeth from all the stuff that can rain down on them, from sugar to bacteria to bits of food that get trapped in the teeth.
A dental sealant is a thin coating applied to premolars and molars. This smooth seal is applied over the deep grooves in the hewing surface of the teeth.
The sealant is made of plastic or resin-based material. It’s either white or clear, so no one can tell you have sealant on your teeth. In fact, the sealants are so thin you won’t feel a difference in your mouth, either.
How Are Sealants Applied?
The dental sealants procedure is quick and painless. First, we clean off the teeth where the sealant is being applied. After the teeth have been dried off, we put a low-acidic solution on the teeth that will help the sealant bond to them.
Then comes the application of the tooth sealant. Your dentist or dental hygienist will paint a thin layer of sealant over each tooth being treated, which will bond with the tooth enamel.
It’s important to get the sealant application dried quickly, especially with kids, who tend to squirm after a few minutes in the chair. We use a curing light that speeds up the drying process. It generally takes less than a minute.
The sealant hardens and then forms a protective barrier between teeth and bacteria. The entire dental sealants procedure lasts just a few minutes. It takes much less time than getting a filling.
Dental Sealants for Children
The majority of dental sealants are applied to kids’ teeth. There are three main reasons for this:
- Fissures and pits are more likely to develop on children’s molars and premolars
- Kids’ tooth-brushing skills are not as strong as adults’, so they need extra protection against cavities
- They work best when they are applied to a tooth’s surface as soon as it comes in
Dentists generally recommend sealants be applied to teeth from ages 4 to 15. These are the years when kids are most likely to get cavities. However, in rare cases, they may recommend tooth sealants for baby teeth if a child is prone to cavities.
Dental Sealants and Dental Hygiene
It’s important to remember that while sealants do offer protection from cavities, they are not substitutes for brushing or lossing. Children with dental sealants should continue with their regular dental hygiene routine of brushing at least twice a day and flossing daily.
They should also continue to take in fluoride through municipal drinking water or fluoride treatments we can provide in our offices. Parents sometimes slack on fluoride because they assume kids’ teeth are being protected by sealants. While they do provide protection, fluoride strengthens teeth and helps ward off cavities too, so it’s best to use both measures together.
Should Kids Get Dental Sealants?
We recommend sealants for most kids as they can have tremendous cavity-fighting benefits. Many experts across the country agree and say sealants even could help with social problems as well.
Dental Sealants for Adults
Kids are not the only ones who can benefit from dental sealants. Adults can also get dental sealants, although they do so in much smaller numbers. There are three main reasons for this:
- Adults brush their teeth more efficiently and with more care than kids, so there’s less need to protect them from cavities.
- Many people think sealants are only for kids and never even think of getting them as adults.
- A lot of insurance companies will cover tooth sealants for kids but not adults. This makes it much less likely that adults will get the protective coverings, because they have to pay out of their own pocket.
We may recommend sealants for adults who have a high propensity for cavities. For instance, if you have three molars with significant decay, we may recommend a sealant on the fourth molar to protect against future cavities.
How Long Do Dental Sealants Last?
Dental sealants take just a few minutes to put on, but they can last for up to 10 years, and slightly more in some cases.
During your regular dental checkup, we will check your sealants for chips or wear. For example, if you suffer from bruxism, or grinding of the teeth, your sealants may wear down quicker than 10 years.
Sealants may need to be replaced if they suffer significant chips. Repairs don’t take long, but many people simply outgrow heir sealants. They may get them as kids but let them lapse after becoming adults.
Dental Sealants and Cavity Prevention
Many patients at our Austin area practice want to know if sealants can prevent tooth decay. When they consider getting sealants for their kids, they want assurance this procedure will help with cavity prevention.
Tooth decay is a serious problem among children because of the way their teeth grow. When they get their first molars, they develop pits and fissures on these teeth. It’s very difficult for toothbrushes to reach these deep crevices. Bacteria may grow inside them because they cannot be sufficiently cleaned.
Other things also contribute to a high incidence of tooth decay among children, including:
- Frequent snacking on sugary food or drinks
- Poor toothbrushing as the child takes over this duty from a parent
- Drinking bottled water, which does not have fluoride to protect against tooth decay
Sealants are an excellent way to prevent cavities. The American Dental Association says adding a sealant to a tooth can reduce the occurrence of cavities by 86 percent in the first year. Over a four-year period, the risk of cavities declines by 58 percent. Over a full decade, says the ADA, the success rate grows to up to 90 percent. That’s a powerful argument for getting sealants.
Make an Appointment for Dental Sealants
There are many benefits to dental sealants, no matter your age. To find out more, contact Pediatric Dental Professionals today. We can answer your questions about tooth sealants and whether they are right for you or your child.