Published on March 1, 2019, Updated on March 1, 2019
Dental sealants are applied to the chewing surface of a tooth act as a barrier to prevent cavities. They are meant to prevent dental fillings and are completely invisible. Sealing placements in children and adolescents have shown a reduction of cavities by 86% after one year, and 58% after four years. Since children are prone to cavities, they benefit the most from dental sealants as they protect their from plaque that builds on areas that a toothbrush cannot reach. Learn more about this process and how it can benefit your child through this guide!
Although daily brushing and flossing of teeth are the most important oral hygiene goals that we should have, dental sealants also protect us from tooth-decaying bacteria that can damage our teeth and affect our oral health. A dental sealant is a thin plastic coating that is applied to the chewing surface of the tooth to “seal out” food, bacteria, and plaque, which are known to decay tooth enamel. They require no drilling to the enamel or dentin, and are meant to prevent the need for fillings. Typically, they are placed on the molars and premolars, or permanent back teeth, and can be either clear or white in color. Molars are uneven and tough to get to, so they are the perfect breeding ground for cavity-causing bacteria to hide and grow. They have grooves, or fissures, which are hard to clean, and can be narrower than a single bristle on a toothbrush. Plaque easily accumulates in these areas, and while the fluoride found in our toothpaste helps protect the surfaces of our teeth, dental sealants give extra protection for the grooved areas of our teeth by providing a smooth surface that covers the fissured area. Although they do not replace normal brushing and flossing, they can help keep cavities from forming and even stop early stages of decay from developing into a full-blown cavity.
The first tooth that receives a dental sealant is the first permanent molar tooth, which grows in behind the baby teeth. Wherever there is a fissure on the molar, a dental sealant will be placed once the chewing surface of the tooth has completely erupted through the gum. The molars and premolars continue to erupt until 11-13 years of age, and the chewing surfaces of these teeth can be sealed as each tooth comes through. Applying a dental sealant is a quick and painless process, and it begins with a thorough cleaning of your teeth before placing an acidic gel on each tooth that needs the sealant. This gel is needed to rough up the tooth’s surface so that the sealant can form a strong bond to it. After a few seconds, the dentist will rinse off and dry your tooth before applying the sealant onto the grooves of the tooth. To harden the sealant, your dentist will use a special blue light or a two-component dental sealant that sets up without a light. After hardening, the sealant becomes a hard plastic varnish coating that you can begin chewing on as normal.
Dental sealants protect against cavities and tooth decay, which are commonly found among children. Children are prone to cavities due to the shape of their growing teeth and as the deep fissures begin forming on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth. Dental sealants are recognized for preventing pit and fissure cavities in children, but they are also recommended for teenagers, as well, due to their continuously erupting teeth throughout adolescence. Although not as common, dental sealants can be a good preventative treatment for adults with no fillings or tooth decay in their back teeth, and those at risk for caries. For both children and adults, they are known to last for several years and are actually replaceable, if need be.
The best approach to keeping your teeth shining and healthy is prevention. Daily brushing and flossing is essential to clean out food and bacteria that are growing in between teeth. Having a good oral hygiene regimen can prevent the development of cavities, plus eating a diet with low amounts of added sugar, which is a huge contributor to tooth decay. Dental sealants will additionally protect children’s vulnerable new teeth from annoying cavities that will hurt their oral health. Having your child regularly visit with their dentist for routine checkups and cleanings will further prevent the need for additional dental work due to tooth decay. If you have a child who is struggling with cavities, call Hardy Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics at (720) 887-6003 for a consultation to determine whether dental sealants may be the best option for improving their oral health!