Why Dental Sealants?
When your dentist mentions dental sealants, this does not mean that you have “bad” teeth, just that you are at an increased risk for experiencing tooth decay. Even if you take meticulous care of your teeth, you may find it difficult getting your toothbrush into every nook and cranny of your teeth. However, these nooks and crannies are often the very areas that experience decay and subsequent need for corrective dental procedures, such as dental fillings. Some insurance companies will pay for dental sealants because they can reduce costs for repairing future tooth decay.
This is why high-risk populations, such as children and teenagers are the most likely candidates for dental sealants, according to the American Dental Association. This doesn’t mean that only young people need dental sealants. Your dentist may recommend them as part of an overall dental health program that includes brushing, flossing and visiting your dentist twice a year to ensure your teeth stay healthy.
“We practice preventive dentistry, and sealants are a cost-effective method along with fluoride varnish to prevent cavities,” says Mark Sayeg, DDS, FAGD, a dentist with a private practice in Sandy Springs, Ga. “As a result of regular dental care, fluorides and sealants, the majority of children in our practice have never had a cavity and will grow up with a beautiful, healthy smile, never having to experience having crowns, root canals, etc. in later life.”
Dental Sealants Procedure
The process for applying dental sealants is neither painful nor lengthy. Think of sealants much like painting on a fingernail polish type that will serve to strengthen your fingernails. Your dentist will start by cleaning your teeth so the surfaces that will have sealants applied will not have any remnants of food or bacteria particles. A mild acid will then be brushed onto your teeth, followed by the sealant application, which is a plastic resin. The sealant will bond to your tooth to strengthen it, and your dentist may shine a special light to cure or harden the sealant over the top of your tooth. You can even eat after the procedure with your dentist’s okay.
Once the sealant has hardened, you can expect it to last several years. The better you care for your teeth, the longer your sealants will last, according to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. Your dentist can update you on your sealant’s condition at each cleaning.
Dental Sealants Results
Because dental sealants are most commonly applied to the back molars in your mouth, it is likely they won’t be visible to viewing eyes. However, sealants may appear as clear, white or tinted slightly different than the rest of your teeth if you look very closely. When you run your tongue or finger over your tooth, you may notice it feels smoother and has fewer pits and grooves, which is the goal for sealant application. However, the sealant is typically very thin so your tooth won’t feel built-up or cumbersome after sealant application.
Your dentist should review the procedure and outlook with you for dental sealants because it’s important for you to have realistic expectations about what sealants can and can’t do for you. Sealants don’t replace or reduce the need for regular dental cleanings and fluoride treatments that can strengthen your tooth enamel. You also can still get cavities with sealants because bacteria can sneak into the nooks and crannies of your teeth. Sealants do, however, decrease the likelihood you will experience cavities, making them a worthwhile investment if your dentist recommends them.