Everything You Need to Know About Dental Sealants

Dental sealants. You may have heard of them before, maybe not, but you should. They are a simple solution to preventing tooth decay and are usually covered by your insurance. Curious? I’m betting you are, so here is everything you need to know about dental sealants and how they can benefit you!

What are they?

Sealants are a protective plastic barrier that is painted on the chewing surface of your teeth, usually your back teeth. These include your molars and premolars. The sealant will cover all the crevices of your tooth surface and help protect it from the bacteria and acids that cause tooth decay.

What are they made of?

Dental sealants, as stated above, are made of plastic. However, there are two distinct types of sealant material that can be used. The first is a glass ionomer sealant (an acid based reaction) and the second is a composite resin which includes polymerization. There are pros and cons to each of these. The type you use is generally decided by your insurance coverage, though dentists have their preferences, as well. For a brief overview of the differences between these two sealants view the chart under “Types of Sealants” provided by the American Dental Association (ADA).

Who should get them?

Dental Sealants are often recommended for children when their permanent molars and premolars come in. The best time to start protecting your teeth from tooth decay is before it ever has a chance to damage your teeth. If you are no longer a child, it is never too late! You can still receive them as an adult and provide extra protection to the surface of your teeth.

What if I already have cavities?

Sealants can be applied over a small cavity and can prevent the cavity from growing further. The cavity needs bacteria to grow and by closing it off from its food supply, it will stop spreading. Some dentists will apply a clear sealant for easy observation of the existing cavity.

How are sealants applied?

It is a fairly easy process and typically takes less than 10 minutes to complete. First, your tooth must be cleaned and dried. Then, cotton will be placed around the tooth to keep it dry, and a liquid will be added to the surface of the tooth. This liquid will make the surface of your tooth a little rough so that the sealant will adhere strongly to the tooth. After that, your tooth will again be cleaned and dried and surrounded by cotton. The sealant material will next be painted on the surface, in the pit and fissures of your tooth, and allowed to harden. Some sealants need to be hardened by a dental curing light. This entire process is practically pain free though a bit uncomfortable as you’ll have your mouth open wide for the duration of the procedure and curing.

How long do they last?

Dental sealants can last up to a staggering 10 years! It is important that you visit  your dentist regularly so they can inspect each sealant thoroughly, ensuring that it remains securely in place. If needed, these can also be replaced with a new sealant.

Are they safe?

Yes! Sealants are not harmful to your body. They do contain a small amount of BPA which has raised some concerns, however the amount of BPA present is considered minuscule. You will come into more contact with BPA just by touching a receipt or breathing in dust particles in the air.

Dental sealants are an incredible asset in preventing tooth decay. If you do not currently have these sealants, consider discussing them with your dentist at your next appointment and determine if they will be a great option for you. If you already have sealants, have them examined to ensure they are still intact and working properly to protect your teeth. The cost of this simple procedure can save you money and pain in the long run They are worth it and so are you!


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