Even if you (or your child) have a rigorous oral hygiene routine that includes careful brushing and thorough flossing, it can be difficult to clean all of the tiny grooves of each tooth. When bacteria builds up in these nooks and crannies, tooth decay is inevitable. Although it’s possible to reduce your risk of tooth decay by enhancing your oral hygiene routine and scheduling more frequent visits to your dentist, sometimes this isn’t practical or probable. Instead, your dentist may recommend dental sealants. So what are dental sealants? More importantly, how do dental sealants work?
How Do Dental Sealants Work?
What are dental sealants?
Dental sealants are thin, plastic coatings that are applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth. They fill in the tiny crevices on each tooth, sealing out food and plaque to reduce the risk of decay.
How do dental sealants work?
Sealants protect the vulnerable spots on teeth that are difficult to keep clean and free of decay. So how do dental sealants work? Dental sealants are painted on to the top of teeth as a liquid, almost like nail polish. The tooth must be thoroughly cleaned and dried before application. The process is quick and simple, and the sealant swiftly hardens into a protective shield. This plastic barrier will stay in place for years, preventing contact between the tooth enamel and dangerous bacteria.
Who should get dental sealants?
Your dentist can help you decide whether or not you are a good candidate for sealants. In most cases, dentists recommend sealants due to a patient’s propensity for cavities or if their teeth have many dips, pits, and crevices. Children are often recommended sealants due to their poor brushing habits and newly arrived molars. First molars typically arrive between ages 5 and 7, and second molars typically arrive between ages 11 and 14. Sealants are put on permanent teeth, and they are often applied as soon as the permanent teeth arrive. In rare cases, dentists will apply sealants to rough and uneven baby teeth to be sure they remain healthy.
Which teeth should be sealed?
Although sealing can benefit nearly all teeth, the treatment is most useful on rough and uneven chewing surfaces. The smooth surfaces of teeth are not very difficult to keep clean through regular brushing, and the flow of saliva assists as well. Thus, molars, with their many cusps, pits, and grooves, are at the greatest risk for decay and are most likely to be sealed. Other teeth that can greatly benefit from sealants include those near the back of the mouth with deep crevices.
How long do sealants last?
Sealants can last up to 10 years with proper care, but 5-10 years is typical. To care for your sealants, maintain a good oral hygiene routine and avoid biting on hard objects. In addition, schedule regular dental appointments (about every 6 months), so that your dentist can be sure the sealants haven’t worn away. When sealants do wear away, they can easily be repaired or replaced with the application of more sealant material.
How effective are sealants?
When properly applied, sealants are highly effective in protecting the treated tooth surface from cavities. Until the sealant wears away or the bond between the tooth and sealant breaks, the area is protected. In addition, teeth that were previously sealed are not more likely to develop tooth decay than teeth that were never sealed. Dental sealants have been used effectively since the 1970s as well, so their long-term effects have been time tested and proven.
How are sealants applied?
Dental sealants can be applied in just one appointment. First, the tooth is thoroughly cleaned. Then, the tooth is dried. Cotton may be placed around the tooth to ensure it remains dry. After that, a solution will be applied to roughen the surface of the tooth, making it easier for the sealant to adhere to the tooth enamel. The tooth will be rinsed, dried, and surrounded with cotton again. Next, the sealant is applied to the chewing (occlusal) surfaces of the tooth and allowed to harden. A special light may be used to speed up the hardening process. After the sealants are applied, your teeth will be ready to go. You can immediately eat, drink, and speak as usual.
What do dental sealants look and feel like?
The plastic is typically clear or shaded white to match the teeth and create a natural look. Although sealants can be seen up close, they are not conspicuous or even noticeable when the person is talking or smiling. In addition, although you may be able to feel them with your tongue, they won’t drastically change the way your teeth feel due to their thinness and smoothness.
Will my dental insurance cover sealants?
Possibly. Some health insurance plans will pay for sealants, and others will not. Contact your insurance company to learn the details of your specific program, because some companies have limitations regarding the age of the patient and the specific tooth sealed. Luckily, the treatment is very affordable regardless, especially when you consider how much money you might save by preventing cavities and fillings.
Sealants are proactive dental treatments that can protect your teeth from permanent damage, saving you time, money, and discomfort. If you’re interested in protecting your teeth or your child’s teeth with dental sealants, consult with your dentist.
Finally, whether you have dental sealants or not, remember to continue caring for your teeth with regular brushing and flossing. In addition, avoid sticky and sugary foods and visit your dentist regularly. And if you’re a parent, teach your children how and why we care for our teeth. Sealants won’t eliminate a child’s risk for developing tooth decay, after all, and poor dental hygiene in childhood can inflict lifelong damage. Strong and healthy teeth require a little maintenance, but we promise they are well worth the effort!
Looking for a new dentist? Contact Wilkinson Dental if you live in or near Springfield, Missouri. You can request an appointment online or give us a call at 417-882-8222. We look forward to hearing from you, and we would be happy to provide further answers and explanations if you’re wondering, “How do dental sealants work?”