It seems like everyone has had a few cavities in their life, despite being easily preventable with good oral hygiene, regular visits to the dentist, and other preventative measures like dental sealants. Dental sealants have been around since the 1960s, but less than one third of children in the United States actually have sealants on their teeth. Few people know the benefits of a dental sealant, or even what it is.
What is a dental sealant?
Dental sealants are a protective layer of plastic resin that is placed over porous teeth in order to prevent cavities. The resin is applied directly to the surface of the tooth to fill in fissures and depressions, usually in the harder-to-clean molars and premolars. The protective coating keeps food and plaque from getting stuck in the fissures and developing cavities.
Who can get dental sealants?
Sealants are usually applied to kids and teenagers (ages six to 14) as soon as their permanent teeth come in in order to prevent decay when it is most likely. However adults are also candidates for sealants, particularly if their dentist identifies a penchant for tooth decay in the back molars.
Sometimes sealants will also be recommended for children’s baby teeth if decay is threatening early tooth loss. Baby teeth play an important role in the alignment of permanent teeth, and measures should be taken to ensure their proper lifespan.
What happens during the procedure?
- Teeth that will be sealed are cleaned thoroughly.
- Each tooth is then dried, and cotton is put around the tooth to keep it dry.
- A solution is put on the chewing surfaces of the teeth to roughen them up, which helps the sealant bond.
- The teeth are then rinsed and dried.
- Sealant is then painted onto the tooth enamel, where it bonds directly to the tooth and hardens. Sometimes a special light is used to help the sealant harden.
How long does the sealant last and how effective is it?
Dental sealants can last up to 10 years, but should be checked regularly by your dentist to identify chipping or erosion. If problems are detected, the sealant can be reapplied. Sealants can reduce tooth decay in children by more than 70 percent.
Taking a preventative approach to you or your child’s teeth can save time and money in the long run by preventing tooth decay and costly fillings, crowns, caps, or even root canals. This painless procedure can prevent painful ones in the future.
Dental sealants can protect you or your child from cavities, but good oral hygiene and regular dental visits to Dr. Ritzau’s office are important to prevent gum disease and maintain good oral health.