Dental Sealants: What are they and are they worth it?

Dental Sealants: What are they and are they worth it?

Dental sealants have been used by dentists for over fifty years, protecting both adults and children from cavities, using a quick, easy and painless method.

What are Dental Sealants and What do They Look Like?

A dental sealant is a coating which is painted onto a tooth to protect it from decay.  The tooth sealant is commonly used on molars, which naturally have pits and dents on their upper surfaces, sometimes making it difficult to clean properly. Dental sealants are clear, white or slightly tinted and therefore rarely invisible to the eye.

What Materials are Used for Dental Sealants?

Dental sealant materials are mostly plastic resin based, and can be either filled or unfilled. Filled sealants contain resins, fillers and chemicals which help the sealant bond well with the tooth, making it strong and resistant to wear.  This type of dental sealant needs to be checked for ‘bite’ after application and may need to be adjusted to ensure the natural bite isn’t hampered.

Unfilled tooth sealants have more resin than fillers and therefore flow naturally into the pits and dents on the teeth, without needing to be adjusted. Fluoride releasing sealants are also used which help strengthen the tooth enamel. Glass ionomer sealants are often used on teeth that are difficult to keep dry, as this form of dental sealant sticks to wet surfaces.  This is the perfect solution for molar that have only half emerged.

Are There any Dangers Surrounding Tooth Sealants?

You may be wondering if dental sealants are safe or whether there are any risks or dangers that come along with dental sealants.  The short answer to this is ‘no’. Dental sealants sometimes contain traces of the chemical BPA (bisphenol A) but studies have shown that the quantities are so minute that it is not a cause for concern. 

What are the Benefits of Dental Sealants?

The purpose of dental sealants is to save teeth from decay; particularly teeth, such as molars, that have uneven surfaces which can be food traps leading to decay. Dental sealants protect the surface of the tooth from acids and bacteria that cause tooth decay.

Does it Hurt to get Dental Sealants?

Applying dental sealants is a painless process.

How are Dental Sealants Applied?

Dental sealants procedure: 6 steps:

1) The tooth is cleaned to remove any plaque or hidden food.  This is done with a brush and pumice paste.

2) The tooth must then be dried thoroughly to enable the resin based tooth sealant to adhere to the tooth.  The dentist will use a small air syringe which gently blows air onto the tooth’s surface. The tooth is then kept dry by isolating from saliva and the other teeth by packing cotton wool rolls around it.

3) Etchant material is then painted onto the tooth and left for around 15 seconds.  This material gives the tooth a rough surface which enables the dental sealant to bond better.

4) The etchant material is then rinsed from the tooth and the tooth is dried again.  The area is again packed with cotton wool rolls to keep it dry.

5) Finally the dental sealant it painted on in a thin layer, ensuring it goes into all the dents and fissures of the tooth.

6) Some dental sealants are self-hardening while other require to be under a concentrated UV light for approximately 30 seconds.

Glass ionomer sealants do not require the etchant process, a conditioning agent is painted onto the tooth instead.  Some glass ionomer sealants set on their own and some need UV light usage to reduce the curing time.

Who are Dental Sealants Typically Recommended for? / Who should get Dental Sealants?

Dental sealants aren’t just for children, adults can benefit from them too.

Kids

Children need help to keep their teeth clean and free from plaque, and this is where dental sealants come into their own.  Kids’ first molars usually erupt at the age of 6, followed by a second molar eruption at the age around 12. Wisdom teeth can start erupting at around the age of 17 or later. These are the times to ask your dentist to apply dental sealants. If the teeth are sealed as soon as the appear, there is little chance of decay, saving the child pain and saving the parent money. Dental sealants can be applied to kids’ teeth at a young age, but the chances are that the little one won’t be able to stay still or open their mouth for long enough, to make the process go smoothly.

Adults

Adults can benefit as well from dental sealants.  As we get older, we find we are more susceptible to tooth decay and our saliva is no longer the tooth protector that it used to be.  Dental sealants can help protect adult healthy teeth from decay. Adults with autoimmune problems, such as lupus, find that they are prone to dental decay and benefit greatly from having dental sealants.

How Long do Dental Sealants Last?

Dental sealants can last well over ten years which makes them an effective weapon against tooth decay.  They need to be checked for cracks or chips during a routine check-up and, if any are found, they can be quickly repaired.  If the damage is great, then your dentist will simply replace the dental sealant.