Nothing beats good oral hygiene habits for preventing the formation of cavities such as brushing and flossing regularly. However, there is another way dentists can help you fight against tooth decay with dental sealants. Let’s take a deeper look at this preventive measure.
What Are Dental Sealants for Teeth?
Dental sealants are a thin, plastic coating that dentists apply to the chewing surfaces of the teeth. The grooves of the permanent back teeth — the molars and premolars — are collection sites for bacteria and other debris. This makes them particularly vulnerable to tooth decay. Sealants applied to those teeth can help prevent cavities.
In fact, a 2016 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that children who did not have dental sealants had almost three times more cavities in their permanent first molars than did children who had sealants. The same study indicated that sealants could prevent 80% of cavities in permanent molars — where most cavities develop.
2 Types of Dental Sealants
There are two primary types of dental sealants available today. These are:
1. Filled sealants: This type of sealant is composed of chemicals, resins and fillers.
2. Unfilled sealants: This type of sealant is made primarily out of resins but does contain some filler.
Filled sealants are harder and more wear-resistant, so they must be checked after placement and adjusted for patient comfort. Unfilled sealants have a higher ratio of resin-to-filler material, and they do not need to be adjusted with a dental handpiece.
Why Are Dental Sealants Used?
Molars and premolars have deep grooves, making it challenging to brush these nooks and crannies properly — especially for children. Bacteria can build up in these spaces and cause cavities. Sealants protect these susceptible areas from tooth decay by essentially “sealing out” plaque and food. Dental sealants can help in several ways:
- They can help prevent foods and acids from settling into the grooves of these teeth which leads to plaque buildup.
- They can help prevent tooth decay and stop cavities from forming.
- They can save time, money and the discomfort of getting a cavity filled.
How Long Do Dental Sealants Last?
Dental sealants can last up to 10 years if teeth are properly cared for. They do wear away over time, and new sealants can be applied, as needed. For some dental patients, sealants may not last as long, particularly in those who:
- Clench or grind their teeth.
- Have acid reflux.
- Eat a highly acidic diet.
Step-by-Step Guide to the Dental Sealant Procedure
The dental sealant placement process is a relatively easy, painless one. Here is what you can expect:
1. First, your dentist will clean plaque or food particles from the teeth, and then thoroughly examine the areas for signs of tooth decay. If a small cavity is detected, this can be addressed prior to any material placement.
2. Next, they will dry each tooth and pack absorbent material in the area to keep it dry throughout the procedure.
3. Your dentist will clean each tooth to be treated with a mild etchant (acid etch solution) to roughen the surface. This promotes better bonding of the sealant material.
4. The etchant solution is rinsed thoroughly, and the teeth are dried again.
5. Depending on the material your dentist is using, they may apply a thin layer of bonding agent before placing the viscous sealant material.
6. Your dentist will paint the sealant material directly onto the chewing surface of each tooth.
7. Finally, they may use a curing light to harden the dental sealant.
At What Age Should You Get Dental Sealants?
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), dental sealants can also be placed over cavities that are in their earliest stages to help stop further tooth decay. This means that adults and children can get dental sealants at any age. However, your dentist will likely suggest dental sealants when your child is around the age of 6. This is the age most children will have developed adult teeth.
How To Care for Dental Sealants
No special care is needed after dental sealants are applied. Just maintain your usual oral hygiene routine of brushing and flossing regularly. Be sure to visit your dentist regularly for examinations and cleanings. Since dental sealants are clear, your dentist can still see what is going on inside the tooth even after the application.
What Are Some Other Ways to Prevent Cavities?
- Brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
- Floss teeth at least once a day, preferably at bedtime.
- Eat healthier snacks, keeping sugary foods and beverages to a minimum.
- Maintain routine dental check-ups so your dentist can keep an eye out for signs of tooth decay.
Visit Your Dentist
If you have questions about dental sealants, visit our dental sealants services page for more information. To schedule an examination or cleaning, give our office a call at 888-329-8111 or book an appointment online.
Medline Plus – Dental Sealants
WebMD – Oral Health: Sealants
Colgate – Dental Sealants
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Dental Sealant Use and Untreated Tooth Decay Among U.S. School-Aged Children
American Dental Association (ADA) – Sealants