Even with your best efforts to maintain good oral hygiene, there might still be times when tooth decay occurs, leading to issues like tooth sensitivity, sudden pain, and visible pits.

When tooth decay is spreading fast, especially in the pits and fissures of the molars and premolars, your dentist may suggest dental sealants as a preventive measure. This can be particularly beneficial for individuals prone to cavities.

Whether or not you are a candidate for dental sealants is an issue for your dentist to determine after assessing your teeth. It is thus important to reach out to them should you experience tooth pain or notice cavities forming.

Understanding Dental Sealants

It is important first to answer the question, “What are dental sealants?”

Dental sealants are protective coatings made of thin plastic. They are applied to the chewing surfaces of back teeth, specifically the molars and premolars. These teeth often have grooves where food and bacteria can collect, increasing the risk of cavities. Dental sealants create a smooth barrier on these surfaces, preventing plaque buildup and reducing the likelihood of cavities.

Applying dental sealants is a simple and painless process. The dentist or dental hygienist cleans the tooth, applies a bonding gel, and then paints on the sealant material. A curing light is used to harden the sealant. Once in place, dental sealants act as a protective layer, particularly beneficial for children and adolescents more susceptible to cavities.

Dental sealants are usually applied during childhood and adolescence since these are the years when individuals are more prone to getting cavities. Both the American Dental Association (ADA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend dental sealants as part of preventive dental care for children and teenagers.

Dentists often suggest applying dental sealants when the permanent molars and premolars come between the ages of 6 and 14. This age range is ideal for sealant application because newly erupted teeth often have deep pits and fissures, making them hard to clean thoroughly with regular brushing alone.

Does it mean adults cannot benefit from dental sealants?

Even adults with a higher risk of cavities, especially in the molars and premolars, could benefit from getting dental sealants. The decision to use sealants is based on an individual's specific oral health needs and risk factors.

While it is commonly misunderstood that dental sealants are a recent innovation, they have been used for several decades since their introduction in the 1960s and 1970s. Initially developed as a preventive measure to reduce the risk of tooth decay, dental sealants have a long history.

Despite being available for an extended period, a significant portion of the population remains unaware of this preventive solution. The ongoing challenge of limited awareness is evident in the data showing disparities in sealant knowledge corresponding to differences in sealant prevalence. Initiatives are needed to enhance public knowledge about the benefits of dental sealants to address this issue.

How Do Dental Sealants Stop Tooth Decay?

Regular brushing and six-month dental check-ups form a comprehensive oral care routine that significantly reduces the risk of tooth decay and promotes overall oral health.

While these measures are effective, complete protection is not guaranteed. This is where dental sealants come in. They offer an extra defense against tooth decay, especially in vulnerable areas with deep grooves and fissures prone to plaque buildup and cavities.

Research and clinical studies demonstrate their effectiveness, substantially reducing cavity incidence on sealed surfaces. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), sealants can be highly effective, with studies showing an 86% reduction in cavities in the first year after application and up to a 58% reduction after four years.

However, it is essential to consider factors influencing the longevity and success of dental sealants. These include:

  • Proper application — The efficacy of sealants relies on the expertise and precision of the dental professional during the application process. When applied correctly, sealants establish a robust and protective barrier.
  • Oral hygiene practices — Individuals must uphold sound oral hygiene practices. These include regular brushing, flossing, and routine dental check-ups. Sealants do not replace these practices; they complement and augment their effectiveness.
  • Individual variability — Success with sealants is not uniform and can differ from person to person based on unique factors like personal oral health, dietary habits, and susceptibility to cavities.

Ways Dental Sealants Stop Tooth Decay

Neglecting untreated tooth decay is a common scenario, yet not wise. This negligence can result in numerous complications and jeopardize oral and overall health. Prolonged pain, potential tooth loss, the risk of developing a tooth abscess, and the impact on surrounding teeth are all possible outcomes.

Fortunately, early intervention through dental sealants emerges as a pivotal strategy for preventing these complications associated with untreated tooth decay.

Here is a look at how dental sealants help prevent cavities:

  1. Dental Sealants Serve as a Protective Barrier

Dental sealants play a crucial role in preventing plaque. Plaque is a persistent sticky bacterial film naturally occurring on tooth surfaces, especially in those tricky deep pits and fissures.

Even with diligent brushing and flossing, plaque remains a persistent challenge owing to a variety of factors:

  • Bacterial growth — The oral environment teems with a diverse bacterial community, encompassing both the helpful and the harmful. These bacteria naturally increase in the mouth.
  • Food particles — Consuming food and beverages, particularly those laden with sugars and carbs, can leave particles on tooth surfaces. Bacteria revel in these remnants, contributing to the formation of plaque.
  • Biofilm formation — Bacteria, teaming up with salivary proteins, form a thin, sticky film - dental plaque. This film latches onto tooth surfaces, including the hard-to-reach areas like spaces between teeth and the molars' grooves.
  • Mineralization — Over time, if left unchecked, plaque can morph into tough calculus or tartar. This is a stubborn substance, unyielding to regular brushing and flossing. It often requires professional dental cleaning.

Strategically applied to vulnerable areas, dental sealants form a smooth protective coating. It, therefore, acts as a bona fide physical barrier, preventing plaque from clinging to tooth enamel. The resultant sleek surface makes it difficult for plaque to gather. This diminishes the risk of bacterial growth and acid production.

  1. Dental Sealants Enhance Oral Hygiene

Dental sealants are a powerful boost to your oral hygiene. They act as an extra defense against tooth decay, especially in vulnerable areas with deep pits and fissures.

They form a smooth, protective coating on the chewing surfaces of your molars and premolars, making it harder for plaque and bacteria to gather. This effectively wards off cavity formation in these at-risk zones.

Dental sealants, acting as a physical barrier, prevent bacteria from sticking to your tooth surfaces, curbing bacterial growth and reducing the risk of acid production. This significantly contributes to your overall oral health.

The smooth surface created by dental sealants simplifies your regular brushing routine, making it easier to maintain effective oral hygiene. With fewer pits and fissures to trap debris, cleaning becomes a breeze.

Sealants are strategically applied to areas prone to decay, like the deep grooves of molars, using a targeted approach that zeroes in on specific high-risk spots. This precision ultimately reduces the chances of cavities in these critical regions.

While dental sealants provide an extra layer of protection, it is crucial to see them as a complement to your regular oral care routines. They are not a replacement. Stick to your routine of brushing, flossing, and professional dental check-ups for a comprehensive approach to oral health maintenance.

  1. Dental Sealants Offer Long-term Protection

Dental sealants last several years, with an average effectiveness of 5 to 10 years. Your oral hygiene practices are key in influencing this duration. When you maintain a consistent routine of regular brushing and flossing, you extend the life of dental sealants.

Additionally, your chewing habits, especially if you chew on hard objects or have teeth-grinding issues (bruxism), can impact the wear and tear of sealants. Being mindful of these habits contributes to the longevity of the protective coating.

The type of sealant material and the precision of its application by your dental professional are crucial factors affecting durability. The initial application quality plays a significant role in ensuring that the sealants provide effective and lasting protection.

As sealants age, they naturally wear down or chip, particularly in high-stress areas of your mouth. Regular dental check-ups are essential for monitoring the condition of existing sealants and determining if reapplication is necessary. Despite sealants potentially wearing off, the positive aspect is that they can often be reapplied during routine dental check-ups.

Do I Qualify for Dental Sealants?

People with cavities, especially children, are considered ideal candidates for dental sealants. The rationale is rooted in the preventive benefits of sealants. When someone has a track record of cavities, particularly in vulnerable molars and premolars, applying dental sealants is a proactive step to fend off further decay.

Children often receive sealant recommendations as permanent molars and premolars emerge, typically between the ages of 6 and 11. During this phase, these teeth are more prone to developing cavities due to their newly erupted and often profoundly grooved surfaces.

However, determining your candidacy for dental sealants depends on a comprehensive assessment by your dentist. While individuals with a history of cavities, especially children, seem like strong candidates initially, the decision is nuanced and demands a professional evaluation.

Your dentist considers various factors, such as:

  • The condition of your teeth.
  • The presence of cavities.
  • The structure of your molars and premolars, and
  • Your overall oral health.

This thorough evaluation empowers the dentist to tailor recommendations based on your specific needs and circumstances.

Application of Dental Sealants

Once your dentist confirms you are a candidate following the assessment, the dental sealant application procedure kicks in. This is a straightforward and painless procedure. Here is a breakdown of the steps involved:

  • The dentist starts the procedure by thoroughly cleaning and polishing the designated teeth. This process ensures a debris- and plaque-free surface.
  • Teeth are then isolated and kept dry. This optimizes the bonding potential of the sealant. Dental cotton or other materials are then used to maintain a dry environment.
  • A mild acid solution (etchant) is applied to the chewing surfaces, creating a rough enamel surface. This roughness enhances the bond between the tooth and the impending sealant.
  • After a brief period, you will then be required to rinse your mouth. After which, you are meant to stay without any fluids in your mouth. This leaves the teeth to be dried again in preparation for sealant application.
  • The dentist lays down the dental sealant material on the chewing surfaces. Remember, it is a thin plastic resin. Thus, it gracefully flows into the pits and fissures of the teeth.
  • The dentist will then use a special light to harden and cure the sealant. This crucial step ensures the sealant forms a tough and protective coating on the tooth.
  • The dentist gives your bite a once-over. This ensures the sealant is uniformly applied and does not throw off your natural bite.

Note: Regular check-ups enable monitoring and reapplication if needed.

Safety Concerns on Using Dental Sealants

Dental sealants present distinct advantages in averting tooth decay. Nonetheless, inquiries about the materials' safety are a natural consideration.

The materials commonly used in sealants, notably thin plastic resin, have undergone rigorous testing and scrutiny. Approval from pertinent health authorities underscores their safety for integration into dental procedures. Additionally, applying sealants is a minimally invasive procedure.

Furthermore, numerous contemporary dental sealants lack BPA, addressing concerns surrounding bisphenol A and its potential health implications. The evolution of dental sealants has led many manufacturers to offer BPA-free alternatives. Despite these positive developments, it is crucial to acknowledge the potential variability in individual responses to dental treatments.

Considerations include:

Allergies or Sensitivities

Certain individuals could have allergies or sensitivities to specific dental materials. Communicating allergies or concerns to your dentist before the procedure is imperative.

Temporary Sensations

Following the application of dental sealants, some individuals could undergo a temporary alteration in sensation, such as the awareness of the sealant on the teeth. This is short-lived and not a cause for alarm.

Longevity Considerations

While dental sealants exhibit durability, they are not permanent. Reapplication is necessary after a specific period, contingent on factors like wear and tear.

Individual Responses

The response to dental procedures can vary among individuals. Open communication with your dentist is essential to addressing specific concerns or queries.

Insurance Coverage on Dental Sealant Procedures

Dental sealant treatments are recognized as highly effective preventive measures. Many insurance plans commonly cover these procedures, often covering a substantial portion of the costs. Most insurance plans cover 80% to 100% of the cost of the procedure. This coverage underscores the acknowledged value of dental sealants in preventing tooth decay.

Note: The specifics of coverage can vary among different insurance plans. It is advisable to review the details of your insurance policy or contact your insurance provider to understand the extent of coverage for dental sealant treatments. Being well-informed about your insurance coverage ensures a clear understanding of potential out-of-pocket expenses and contributes to making informed decisions regarding your oral health.

How the Use of Fluoride Compares With Dental Sealants

Fluoride toothpaste is crucial for preventing tooth decay by strengthening enamel and enhancing resistance to acid attacks. As advised by dentists, regular use significantly contributes to oral health.

Conversely, dental sealants serve a specific role in preventing decay by forming a protective barrier on the chewing surfaces of back teeth. These areas are prone to challenges in thorough cleaning with a toothbrush, making them susceptible to plaque and bacteria accumulation. The application of sealants prevents particles and bacteria from settling into these deep grooves.

It is not about choosing one over the other when comparing fluoride toothpaste and dental sealants. It is about recognizing their distinct purposes and the potential for a synergistic approach in a comprehensive oral care plan. The decision on whether to use one, the other, or both should be guided by professional advice from a dentist.

Dental professionals often recommend combining fluoride toothpaste for systemic protection and dental sealants for targeted coverage. This ensures a well-rounded and personalized oral care regimen tailored to individual needs and vulnerabilities. Regular dental consultations further facilitate the ongoing assessment and refinement of the oral care strategy.

Find a Dental Care Specialist Near Me

The extensive discussions on dental sealants underscore their evident benefits, significantly outweighing potential concerns. These sealants are highly effective in preventing tooth decay, particularly in challenging-to-reach areas where traditional brushing is less effective. As the conversation progresses, most people agree that dental sealants have substantial advantages over preventive dental care.

Unlocking the benefits of dental sealants is within everyone's reach. You can do so by engaging your dentist. During your dental consultation, you can gain personalized insights into how this preventive measure can contribute to optimal oral health.

Contact Ganji Dental today to schedule your check-up and determine your candidacy for dental sealants. Take advantage of this opportunity to improve your oral health and prevent tooth decay. Contact our Hawthorne team at 310-643-8045 for more information.