What Is a Dental Sealant?
Dental caries, also known as tooth decay, is widespread among children and adults. This dental disease occurs when the enamel is weakened and collapses, progressively destroying the tooth. Thankfully, Dr. Barry and Dr. Love can significantly reduce the risk of decay by applying sealants to your teeth.
These sealants are plastic films that are painted on the top surface of molars and premolars where decay is most common. These films can be clear or tooth-colored. Sealants act as a shield to protect the vulnerable areas of your teeth from plaque and acid. When applied correctly, these sealants are extremely effective in preventing cavities.
How Effective Are Sealants?
When sealants are properly applied, they are 100 percent effective in protecting teeth from decay. Sealants prevent food particles and bacteria from penetrating the teeth. This allows teeth to remain sparkly clean underneath their protective barrier.
More impressively, some research has shown that cavities can actually be stopped when dental sealants are placed over a slightly decayed tooth. If the bacteria at fault can’t access its nutrient supply, it will die and the tooth will stop decaying.
Something to keep in mind is that sealants can be broken if they are not taken care of. If any part of the bond between the tooth and the sealant is broken, it will no longer be effective. However, even if this happens, your teeth will be at no more risk than those with no sealants at all.
How Are Sealants Applied?
Before a sealant can be applied, the surface of the tooth must be cleaned and rinsed to remove all food, bacteria, and cleaning agent. A gel etching solution is then applied to the tooth’s enamel. This includes the surface’s pits and grooves. After 15 seconds, this solution is rinsed away. Once the surface is dry, the plastic sealant can be applied. A curing light is used to harden the material.
Other sealants are applied and hardened in a similar way as nail polish. This treatment process is painless and can take anywhere from five to 45 minutes, depending on the number of teeth being sealed.
How Long Will a Sealant Last?
Sealants typically last at least five years but can occasionally last up to 10. One study found that seven years after the procedure, 49 percent of a patient’s teeth were still protected – an impressive number! This treatment is helpful, but not permanent. Visit your dentist regularly so your sealants can be monitored.
Who Should Receive Sealant Treatment?
Children who have newly erupted permanent teeth are the most susceptible to cavities. Surveys show that nearly two-thirds of all cavities form in children’s newly erupted teeth. This is due in part to the fact that the chewing surfaces are less affected by fluoride. Cavities usually form in the pits and grooves of the teeth, as it can be difficult to clean food particles and bacteria from between them. Because of this, children typically benefit the most from receiving sealant treatment.
Other patients of all ages can also benefit from sealants – especially those whose teeth are susceptible to decay. Studies show nearly 95% of people experience cavities at some point in their lives.
Are Sealants Covered by Insurance?
While insurance benefits have increased, coverage for sealant procedures is minimal. However, more companies are beginning to recognize sealants as a proven preventative procedure. This means that benefits may be expanded in the future. Preventative measures can help protect your teeth from needing more aggressive treatment and can reduce expenses in the future.
If you have any questions or wish to schedule an appointment, call our Columbus dental office at 614-451-2234.