Everything You Need to Know About Getting Dental Sealants
More than 90% of Americans over the age of 20 have at least one cavity, and a quarter of those cavities are untreated. Untreated cavities can lead to serious dental problems that can eventually require emergency treatments. While cavities are commonplace, they are also preventable through dental sealants for adults. What are dental sealants, and how do they work? These treatments place a protective barrier between your tooth enamel and harmful bacteria. We’ll explore several topics that unpack and explain this preventative treatment.
What Is a Dental Sealant?
They are a preventative treatment that can greatly reduce your risk of developing cavities. Dentists have used sealants since the 1960s. The thin, plastic coating adheres to the surface of your molars. The protective barrier literally blocks harmful bacteria from coming into contact with your teeth, which prevents tooth decay from occurring. They can be placed on any tooth surface. Since molars tend to be the areas where tooth decay starts, sealants are typically placed on the top of molars. Molars have ridges and grooves that trap food particles and bacteria.
Dental sealants are a discrete treatment. The treatment blends in with your smile because the material is partly translucent. Once one of our dentists places the sealant, you’ll forget it’s even there! They do not interfere with your bite. But they are not a treatment for tooth decay. If one or more of your teeth has a cavity, your dentist will need to treat that tooth decay before he or she places the sealant. Pretty much anyone is a great candidate for sealants. This preventative treatment is often used with children and teens since they are often the most susceptible to tooth decay.
Do Sealants Reduce the Risk of Tooth Decay?
One of the main benefits of sealants is that the form of dental care is highly effective at preventing tooth decay. The Centers for Disease Control found that sealants prevent cavities 80% of the time. Although the preventative treatment is highly effective, the CDC notes that less than half of children have sealants. They are very effective because they prevent bacteria from reaching the areas that are normally at risk of developing tooth decay. Acidic foods and drinks can lead to tooth decay, but cavities often form due to the presence of bacteria.
As bacteria eat sugars and starches that are found in your saliva or on the surface of your teeth, the microbes release trace amounts of acid. Over time, the acid slowly demineralizes the calcium and other minerals found in your enamel. Once a small pit forms, it tends to grow until the area is professionally cleaned and filled by a dentist. Your dentist will place sealants strategically so they protect vulnerable areas of your teeth, like the grooves found on the tops of molars. Sealants are only effective for up to ten years. You will need to have them replaced as directed by your dentist to enjoy the benefits of sealants for disease control and prevention.
Sealants are not a replacement for good oral hygiene habits and regular visits to the dentist for exams and cleanings. Sealants work in conjunction with those preventative steps. They do not guarantee that you will never develop a cavity on the chewing surface of your teeth, but they do greatly reduce the risk that you will experience tooth decay in the areas the dentist treats.
What Age Groups Should Get Sealants?
Dental sealants are FDA-approved for adults and children. Your dentist may recommend them if you have a history of tooth decay. Sealants are recommended for children and teens of all ages. Kids are often less careful about maintaining good oral hygiene habits. Children and teens benefit from them because they are also more likely to eat sugary or acidic foods and drinks that lead to tooth decay. Since pretty much anyone is a candidate for sealants, our patients are encouraged to ask about these preventative treatments. If your child is a patient at Family and Cosmetic Dentistry, one of our team members will describe the treatment and provide additional instructions.
What Are Sealants Made Of?
Dental sealants contain a combination of plastic and ceramic materials. Both materials are biocompatible, meaning they are completely safe and do not adversely react with our bodies.
The blend of ceramic and plastic is durable enough to withstand the pressures of chewing and biting. Ceramic materials are commonly used to fabricate dental crowns and other restoration. Ceramic is both strong and cosmetically pleasing. They are durable enough to remain on your teeth until a dentist replaces them. The material will not wear down or become absorbed by the body. Dentists across the country are comfortable treating children and adults with sealants because the base materials are completely safe and non-toxic.
How Are They Applied?
The process of applying sealants is straightforward. Before your dentist performs the non-invasive procedure, he or she will identify areas of your teeth that are vulnerable to tooth decay. First, your dentist will prepare your teeth. The tooth surface must be clean for the sealant to have a strong bond with the surface of your teeth. A strong bond ensures that your sealants stay in place for several years or longer.
Your dentist will use an acid solution to prepare the surface of your teeth. Once the surface is ready, your dentist will paint the plastic and ceramic material over the grooves and pits of your teeth.
The molars have irregular pits and grooves over their surface that often trap food and bacteria. Sealants flow into the grooves and pits and coat the surfaces with a protective layer that prevents bacteria from multiplying and causing tooth decay. Once your dentist places the sealant, it either naturally hardens within about a minute, or it hardens through the use of a special light. The final step involves ensuring that it does not interfere with your permanent teeth bite.
The dental treatment leaves your natural tooth structure intact, and there is no need for drilling. You can eat as you normally would once the sealant hardens. The entire process only takes a few minutes.
Are Sealants Applied to Every Tooth in a Child’s Mouth?
Sealants are only placed where tooth decay is likely to occur. For most children and adults, that’s in the bottom of the grooves found on molars and premolars. The low-lying areas of baby teeth tend to become filled with tartar, which is calcified plaque. Even careful brushing and flossing cannot completely remove plaque from these deep areas. Depending on the contours of your teeth, your dentist may need to place sealants on the side of canines or other non-molars, but those types of placements are less common.
Dental sealants are also placed over areas of mild tooth decay. Your dentist can perform this step once your tooth decay has been removed and your teeth have been restored using composite resin, which is also known as tooth-colored fillings. They are a completely customizable preventative treatment. Our goal is to provide the most amount of protection without over-treating your teeth. We will never overprescribe the application of sealants.
Does Insurance Cover Dental Sealants?
You may be wondering how much dental sealants cost. Even when paid for out of pocket, sealants are an incredibly affordable treatment. Since sealants prevent tooth decay and other dental problems, many forms of dental insurance cover most or all of the costs associated with placing sealants. If you aren’t sure if your insurance company covers sealants, give our office a call and one of our team members will be glad to look up whether the treatment is covered.
Dental sealants can lower your overall dental expenses. Dental offices place them because they are more affordable than treating a cavity. An advanced cavity can require costly and potentially invasive treatments to restore your oral health. If you are looking for ways to cut your dental costs, dental sealants should be at the top of your list, along with regular check-ups and dental cleanings.
Learn More About Dental Sealants
Dental sealants are a safe and effective preventative treatment that helps our patients avoid cavity treatments. We encourage all of our patients to consider them as a means of protecting their oral health. Tooth decay is a leading cause of tooth loss, and cavities are almost always preventable.
At Family and Cosmetic Dentistry, we’re a family practice. Our sibling dentists work to bring patients breakthrough dental techniques and advanced procedures that ensure optimal oral health for you and each member of your family. Contact our Virginia Beach office to schedule your next visit.