Prosthodontics, Implants, Cosmetic & Reconstructive Dentistry

How Dental Sealants Stop Tooth Decay

As part of your oral hygiene regime, you should brush and floss your teeth at least two times daily. Unfortunately, maintaining the best practices is not always a guarantee that you will not suffer from tooth cavities. Some of the signs of tooth decay include tooth sensitivity, spontaneous pain from the affected tooth or its surrounding areas, and visible pits on the tooth, just to mention a few. If you notice signs of developing cavities on your tooth, a dental sealant can stop the decay in its track. This will save the affected tooth from further damage and generally make it easier to keep your dental in top shape for longer.

Your dentist may recommend using dental sealants as part of your preventative care. The idea is to protect the tooth’s enamel from damage if your teeth are in pristine condition. If you have small dental cavities, the sealant covers them, protecting the pulp from harmful bacteria that can turn a situation from bad to worse.

How Dental Sealants Stop Tooth Decay Overview

The best way to prevent cavities is to uphold good oral hygiene practices. Ideally, you should brush and floss twice daily and visit your dentist for checkups after every six months. When brushing, make sure you pay special attention to the crannies and nooks on the teeth, more so those on the molars. Unlike the front teeth, molars have an uneven surface that allows proper chewing.

While these crannies are essential, they also provide an ideal area for leftover food to hide. Improper brushing can cause the accumulation of acids and harmful bacteria that leads to tooth decay. For the best results, make sure you brush for at least two minutes and use mouthwash afterward.

Another safety net that can help prevent cavities is to schedule for the application of a dental sealant. You’ve heard about asphalt sealers, right? Well, the sealants create a protective topcoat that protects your asphalt pavements from cracking and premature wear. Likewise, dental sealants create a protective layer that prevents cavities from forming. If a tooth is caught during the early stages of cavity formation, applying a dental sealant can stop the decay from growing into a full-blown cavity.

Research shows that dental sealants can reduce the risk of tooth decay by a whopping 80% when applied to the molars during the first two years. After this, the bond continues to offer protection against 50% of cavities for roughly four years. According to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control in October 2016, kids between the ages of 6 and 11 without dental sealants are three times more likely to develop their first molar cavity when compared to those with bonds.

Dental Sealants Defined

Dental sealants are thin, transparent, or white coatings painted on the molars to help prevent cavity formation. They serve as barriers that protect the enamel from elements that cause damage, including harmful oral bacteria and acids from foods.

A dentist can also apply the sealant on the bicuspids and premolars for increased protection. However, the relatively smooth surfaces of these teeth mean that they receive adequate protection from fluoride in drinking water and toothpaste. This makes it more necessary to focus on the molars that tend to have a more uneven surface.

Even though children benefit the most from dental sealants, they can also be beneficial to adults. Irrespective of your age, the thin coating made from plastic material will cover the surface of your teeth, stopping acid and plaque from eroding or eating away your enamel. In return, this prevents tooth decay and makes it easy to maintain your teeth in top shape for years.

Sealants are also beneficial when the teeth have small cavities. In this case, covering the holes stops the decay from spreading. This is because food, germs, and oral bacteria cannot reach the tooth and damage it further.

Compelling Reasons to Use Sealants to Stop Tooth Decay

Contrary to popular belief, dental sealants are not new in the world of dentistry. They have been in use since the 1960s. Following intense studies conducted by the Dental and Craniofacial Research, dental sealants were developed and certified to be safe and effective.

Unfortunately, dental sealants remain a foreign topic to many people, including those from empowered social backgrounds. Research shows that less than one-third of American children have undergone dental sealant application as part of their oral health preventative care. It remains imperative to understand that sealants offer a painless, quick, easy, and cost-effective way to stop cavities and prevent the need for expensive or highly invasive treatments such as crowns and dental fillings.

Ways Dental Sealants Stop Tooth Decay

Dentists can provide a range of services to keep your teeth pearl white, properly aligned, and healthy. However, tooth decay is by far the most common problem they treat. No one is immune to cavities, including kids and adults with meticulous oral hygiene practices. A cavity without treatment for a prolonged period can lead to a dental abscess, significant pain and discomfort, and even tooth loss.

Fortunately, dental sealants can help prevent cavities. They can also prevent minor cavity issues from blowing out of proportion. The procedure for applying the sealant is straightforward and painless, yet it offers many benefits.

Let’s have a look at the three main ways dental sealants stop cavities:

They Serve As a Protective Barrier

There are numerous kinds of foods people eat each day to maintain a healthy diet. Even if you are a healthy eating nut, the chances are that your diets contain reasonable amounts of sugar. The sugar reacts with harmful oral bacteria creating an acid that can eat away the tooth’s enamel.

Brushing and flossing at least twice each day can help reduce the impact of oral acid on your enamel. Note that the acid erodes minerals found on the tooth’s enamel through a process known as demineralization. Frequent acid attacks weaken the teeth by destroying the enamel. This paves the way for tooth decay and dental cavities.

The work of a dental sealant is to create an extra coat of protection between food leftovers, oral acids, and your teeth.  While it is still essential to watch what you eat to maintain good dental health, the protective layer will play a significant role in keeping cavities at bay. With dental sealants, both kids and adults have optimal chances of enjoying excellent oral health.

They Simplify Cleaning the Teeth

Your dentist will apply the dental sealant on the molars and premolars. Often, the main focus will be on the teeth used to chew, crush and grind food. Both the molars and premolars have deep grooves and crannies that allow them to function correctly and crush food effectively. Unfortunately, food can quickly get stuck inside the grooves and increase the likelihood of cavities.

Proper brushing techniques can help to remove most of the stuck-in food particles. However, some particles may remain inside the nooks and combine with bacteria to form plaque. If the plaque remains in place for long enough, the tooth’s enamel may weaken, allowing a cavity to form.

Fortunately, a dental sealant can remedy the situation. When placed on the tooth’s surface, it seals the deep pits of the molars and premolars. Even though your teeth will still have grooves and nooks for easy chewing of different foods, removing food leftovers will be easier. This will help preserve the integrity of your teeth and reduce the risk of cavities.

They Offer Protection for Years

So, how long do dental sealants last?

Do they offer a lifetime of protection?

These are just some of the questions you may have. Well, dental sealants don’t provide permanent protection from tooth decay. However, it can provide long-lasting protection when the bond is applied correctly and well-maintained through proper brushing and flossing. It is also imperative to schedule regular checkups with your dentist to have chipped or worn-out areas resealed or replaced.

Dental sealants can last for 3-5 years on average. However, their maximum longevity is about ten years. Note that the trick to ensuring the bond lasts for long is proper application. It is imperative to remain as still as possible to allow the dentist to clean and dry your teeth before applying the sealant.

Some patients are naturally wiggly. It could be that you have a sensitive gag reflex, a hyperactive tongue, or severe dental anxiety. In this case, your dentist may recommend sedative dentistry to make the procedure more comfortable.

Dental sealants offer one of the most effective forms of protective dentistry. One of the main perks of the procedure is that it makes expensive restorative procedures unnecessary. This makes it a worthwhile investment for both kids and adults.

Am I A Good Candidate For Dental Sealants?

Now that you know the benefits of dental sealants, you are probably eager to see if you make a good candidate for the procedure. Well, dental sealants are perfect for children and teens whose natural teeth are still in pretty good shape. Adults also make excellent candidates when their teeth are free of decay and dental fillings in the molars and premolars,

The best time to schedule a dental sealant appointment for your child is as soon as the molars and premolars shoot out. Note that kids aged between 6 and 14 years are more prone to cavities. You, therefore, want to invest in protection when the teeth are still in their best state.

If you notice that the baby teeth of your little one have deep grooves and depressions, talk to your dentist about the concern. It could be possible to apply a dental sealant to preserve the integrity of the baby teeth. Remember that they play a significant role in holding the correct spacing for permanent teeth. Applying a sealant can reduce the risk of having to schedule extractions too early.

How Are Dental Sealants Applied?

Dental sealants cover the chewing surfaces of the molars and premolars to keep them free of food leftovers, plaque, and germs. By forming a shield over the grooves of the back teeth, they make cleaning easier, create a shield over the enamel, and generally prevent tooth decay.

As aforementioned, your pediatric dentist may recommend using sealants as soon as the chewing surfaces of your little one’s back teeth erupt. During the consultation, your dental specialist will recommend the ideal time to schedule an appointment.

If you make a good candidate for the procedure, the application process will be painless and straightforward. Here is what to expect during the treatment appointment:

  • First, you will visit your dental hygienist and have your teeth thoroughly cleaned
  • Your dentist will then takeover and dry each tooth with an absorbent material
  • Another absorbent material, such as cotton, will be placed around the teeth to keep them dry
  • Your dentist will now use an acid solution and apply it on the chewing surface of each of your premolars and molars. The acid will make the surfaces rough enough to ensure the proper adhering of the sealant bond.
  • The next step is to rinse your teeth to remove the acid and dry them once more.
  • The procedure is almost over, and your dentist will apply the dental sealant on each back tooth’s enamel and give it time to adhere and harden.
  • The last step involves using a special curing light that ensures the proper hardening of the sealant.

Voila! The procedure is over, and you can go home and enjoy years of cavity-free teeth.

Are Dental Sealants Safe?

More and more dentists are advocating for the need for parents to schedule dental sealant applications for their kids. However, some parents are still skeptical about the safety of the material used to seal the back teeth. As expected of any responsible parent, you must do some homework to understand whether a procedure is safe for your little one.

At this point, you understand the perks of dental sealants and even the application process.

The pending question is, are the materials used safe for your loved one?

Well, they are. Dental sealants are safe for both adults and children. The plastic material is bonded on the tooth’s surface, meaning that you don’t have to worry about your kid undergoing a potentially invasive procedure.

The sealant material is made from medical-grade resin. It is pretty similar to white filling or composite used during restorative dentistry procedures. The main difference between a dental filler and sealant is that the latter has a runny nature that allows it to flow into the crevices and grooves of the molars and fill those tiny nooks.

Moreover, dental sealants are BPA-free. Generally, there are no significant downsides to scheduling a procedure. Even though the sealants may chip or wear out with time, this is not a big deal. During your checkups, your dentist will examine the impacted areas and repair or replace the sealant to ensure maximum protection for years.

The only downside we can think of is that the sealant doesn’t last a lifetime.  Even with proper maintenance, the material is prone to thinning over time. All the same, it can last for about a decade, making it one of the best investments you can make for your child’s oral health.

As a parent that wants the best for their child, you must understand that oral hygiene may have a direct impact on just about every area of your little one’s life. Tooth decay causes pain, discomfort, eating and sleeping problems and even lack of concentration while at school. Protecting your child from the possibility of battling major cavities is one way to ensure they thrive.

Fluoride vs. Dental Sealants

So, you currently use the best fluoride toothpaste. Ideally, your oral health should be well-safe guarded as long as you brush and floss at least two times daily. Is this enough to keep tooth decay at bay?

Unfortunately, using fluoride treatments alone is not enough. Fluoride does an outstanding job protecting your kid’s teeth, although treatments work best when used alongside dental sealants. What fluoride does is to re-mineralize the enamel to make it stronger and less prone to cavities. On the other hand, sealants cover the grooves on the back teeth making them less prone to hiding food particles and plaque.

An ADA study compared kids who only use fluoride toothpaste with children with dental sealants who also use fluoride treatments. The outcome was astounding! The study showed that kids with both were less likely to develop cavities by an impressive 73%.

Does Insurance Cover Dental Sealants?

Dental sealant treatments are among the most effective preventative procedures. As such, many insurance plans provide coverage for the treatment and foot 80-100% of the costs incurred. However, it is best to confirm with your policy provider and request more accurate information about your dental coverage.

Find a Tarzana Dentist

Book an appointment with us today if you are ready to take your child’s dental health to the next level using dental sealants. At Tarzana Dental Care, we believe that prevention is better than cure. We offer reliable preventative care and a whole host of dental services to help you enjoy a good smile for a lifetime. We will be privileged to hold your little one’s hand and walk beside them to increase their chances of enjoying a lifetime of beautiful and healthy smiles. If you have dental concerns, want to schedule dental sealant procedures, or have any questions, please feel free to reach out at 818-708-3232.