What are Dental Sealants?
Dental sealants or Tooth sealants are plastic coatings that protect the chewing surfaces of your teeth from bacteria and plaque that cause tooth decay. These are mainly applied to the grooves of your back teeth – premolars and molars – wherein decay occurs frequently.
You will find that most of the tooth decay that occurs in children as well as teens happens in these tooth surfaces. Application of sealants protects chewing surfaces from germs as well as food items sticking to the grooves of these teeth. The best way to protect the permanent teeth of your child is to apply dental sealants.
IN US insurance companies pay for application of dental sealants on children’s teeth; but they don’t cover adult teeth.
How do dental sealants prevent tooth decay?
A dental sealant is a plastic resin that covers the fissures and pits in your teeth thereby acting as a barrier for bacteria and plaque and this protects your tooth enamel.
Bacteria in the dental plaque causes tooth decay; if the dental plaque remains for a long period on the surface of the tooth the probability of getting tooth decay/ cavities is high. The purpose of brushing your teeth is that the dental plaque adheres to your tooth surface and brushing removes the dental plaque thereby avoiding cavity formation.
There are some teeth that are difficult to clean because of their location in your mouth. For example, some back teeth – molars – are extremely difficult to brush and clean because their chewing surface – pits and fissures – are deep as well as narrow. It is quite likely that the bristles of the brush could not access such areas thereby allowing the plaque to remain in these places thereby risking tooth decay.
The dental sealants are plastic resins and they can be bonded into the grooves of the tooth to make the surface if the tooth smooth and this will facilitate the bristles of the tooth brush to access all areas of your tooth and remove the plaque thereby preventing tooth decay.
Another problem that you could face is that the thickness of the enamel layer in the grooves is lesser than that in the other parts of the tooth. This means that this area is not only susceptible for cavity formation but also the cavities will penetrate the enamel layer in a shorter period.
Which are the teeth that are normally suitable for application of sealants?
The teeth that are likely to be benefited by sealant application are the permanent molars. Children get their first molars at the age of 6; the second molars erupt at the age of 12. It is ideal if you get the sealant applied immediately after the eruption of teeth and this will prevent tooth decay.
How complicated are application of sealants?
The process of application of sealants is relatively simple and does not warrant any drilling or removal of tooth structure. The whole process might take a few minutes for every tooth. The
steps followed normally by a dentist are as given below.
- Clean the tooth that requires to be sealed thoroughly.
- Roughen the chewing surfaces with a solution containing acid; this is necessary for enabling the sealant to stick to the teeth.
- Wash off the tooth and allow it to dry.
- Paint the sealant on the tooth enamel.
- Apply a curing light to harden the sealant.
Sealants are capable of withstanding the normal chewing pressures. The sealant normally remains intact for 5-10 years and as long as the sealant remains the surface of your tooth will not decay; you may require a second application only after a number of years after consulting with your dentist.
How do sealants affect aesthetics?
One can see the existence of sealants in your mouth only at close quarters. Sealants come in different shades such as clear, white, slightly tinted etc. and hence cannot be seen while talking or smiling.
Do sealants make you uncomfortable?
No. Sealants are thin and are applied on the pits and grooves of molar teeth. However, you can feel the existence of the sealant with your tongue.
What is the life of sealants?
The sealants last for a period of 5 to 10 years. However you must get it checked up by your dentist regularly and it can be reapplied if necessary.
Is it possible to substitute fluoride by dental sealants to protect cavities?
No. Sealants and fluorides work in conjunction with each other to prevent tooth decay. Hence, sealants cannot replace fluorides. Toothpaste, mouth rinse etc. also are used for preventing tooth decay; however their role is different. Sealants prevent accumulation of germs and food particles out of the grooves.
Cavity filling or sealant application – which is better?
Your teeth get damaged permanently because of teeth decay. Filling is done after tooth decay i.e. after the damage is done whereas sealing prevents any damage being done to the teeth. Fillings are not permanent. Filling weakens your teeth because every time filling is done the dentist drills your teeth. You can save money, time and discomfort with dental sealants as compared to fillings.
Are sealants useful for adults?
The decay in the fissures and pits in your teeth normally starts when you are young; hence it is ideal to apply dental sealants at a young age. However adults can also benefit with this.
What is BPA?
BPA is the abbreviation for Bisphenol A; this is an organic compound that contains two phenol functional groups and is used to produce polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins. This compound is estrogenic and is considered as an endocrine disruptor and this causes negative health effects by mimicking body hormones. Canada has declared this as a toxic substance. FDA is also concerned about its exposure to fetuses, children and infants. Many plastic bottle manufacturers have banned this substance.
What is the connection between BPA and dental sealant?
Most of the commonly used dental sealants as well as the resins for tooth repair use compounds that could degrade to BPA and the regulatory authorities are concerned about it.
How safe is it to use dental sealants on children?
According to a study carried out recently it has been found that the dental sealants can be used safely on kids as long as the dentists ensure that all the residues of the sealants are rinsed or wiped out after application. It is stated that the advantage gained by preventing cavities is more than the ill-effects of using BPA. Researchers also say that the volume used is very low and hence there is hardly risk involved.
How safe is it to use dental sealants on pregnant women?
The researchers are of the opinion that using sealants on pregnant women is to be avoided as far as possible unless the treatment is an absolute necessity. They can take the treatment after the babies are born