Dental Sealants: What are they and who should get them?
Dental sealants: what are they?
Dental sealants are thin coatings of a composite material that are painted on the teeth. They are cured by light in order to be bonded to the tooth enamel. Their purpose is to protect the enamel of the chewing surfaces of the teeth by filling the deep grooves of the teeth in order to keep food, plaque, etc. out of them. It helps to prevent decay. Dental sealants are usually applied to the back teeth (the molars and premolars), and are typically done on children when they get their permanent molars/premolars in. The first permanent molar that comes in is usually around age 6-7, and the premolars and second molar typically come in between 10-12 years of age.
Children between the ages of 6-14 are considered more cavity-prone than other age ranges, and since that is also the range that the permanent molars and premolars start coming in, it’s also a good time to get this protective coating to help prevent decay. Adults without decay or fillings in their premolars and molars can also benefit from dental sealants. Sealants can help protect your teeth from decay for a long time, just be sure to get regular dental checkups to ensure they are still intact. After a long while, dental sealants can start to chip and get worn, which is why it is important to get them checked.
One of the very positive things about dental sealants is that; you don’t have to remove physical tooth structure at all in order to place it on a tooth. Unlike dental fillings, and other restorative dental procedures, you all you have to do is “paint” it onto the chewing surface of the teeth. It’s a pretty win/win preventative service that really will help prevent decay for some time.
How dental sealants are done.
The delivery of dental sealants is a pretty straight-forward procedure. The dentist, or hygienist, would first ensure that the teeth to receive the sealants are thoroughly cleaned. The teeth are then dried very well, and often cotton is placed around the teeth to keep them clear of saliva. Then, an acid solution is placed on the chewing surfaces of those teeth, which roughens the tooth surface up to ensure that the sealant material bonds with the teeth very well. After this, the teeth are rinsed and dried again. The sealant material is then “painted” onto the tooth surface where it directly bonds to the tooth enamel. A curing light is then used to help the sealant material harden fast. It’s that simple.
Sealants differ from fillings, in that no significant amount of enamel is removed from the teeth. Composite fillings are done when there is decay in the tooth, or when a small part of the tooth has been chipped. When fillings are done, the dentist would use a drill to remove all of the decay in a cavity, he then would use composite material to fill that part of the tooth that was removed. Sealants are more of a preventative procedure, and no drilling is required.
Sealants, if properly cared for, can last up to 10 years, and commonly do last longer than that. It is important to see the dentist regularly when you have dental sealants so that he/she can check for wear, chips, and other signs that the sealant is “going bad.”
Sealants are usually, relatively inexpensive, and can prevent the need for more expensive work being done by protecting your tooth from decay. The way they protect is keeping the causes of decay (sugar, food, plaque, bacteria, and the acids secreted by them) from getting in the grooves and depressions in your teeth and sitting there.
I hope this helped clear up just what dental sealants are!
Stay healthy my friends.