WHAT ARE DENTAL SEALANTS?
Sealants are a type of filling-like material which is placed into the grooves of usually your back teeth to help protect them against future cavities. Sealants are a safe and minimally invasive preventative measure which can help keep your teeth healthy for a longer time. The occlusal surface (chewing surface) of your back teeth (premolars and molars) have grooves which can be deep. Sometimes, during development, they become so deep that a bristle of a toothbrush is too big to reach down to the bottom and clean out the groove. So bacteria, food and plaque can get stuck down there and start causing a cavity. By making this area cleansable again, we can prevent future cavities and protect the tooth.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A SEALANT AND A FILLING?
Generally sealants are placed right on top of the tooth without needing to drill. Sealants lie flat on top of a groove allowing it to be an area that is easily cleaned by your toothbrush. Every once in a while, a tooth groove will be so deep it needs something called enameloplasty which means a dentist would need to take an instrument and gently smooth out the groove to make it flatter and more able to accommodate the sealant. If this is needed, the dentist will share this with you. This is a quick procedure and does not hurt at all. You also do not need any local anesthetic for this.
On the other hands, fillings are done for teeth which already have cavities. They are not a preventative measure but are done when preventative measures have failed. Sealants are similar procedures to very small cavities. Fillings can be done on almost any surface of the tooth. Sealants are generally limited to the chewing surface or other smooth surfaces with grooves.
CAN YOU SEAL A CAVITY?
Depending on the cavity, this may be possible but is rare. Most cavities have progressed to a point where a sealant will not be enough protection. In these cases, the dentist must do a filling instead. In some rare cases, the dentist can seal the cavity to prevent progression of the lesion. Some sealant materials are clear to allow the dentist to monitor the lesion over time to see if the progression of the cavity has in fact been halted.
If you recommend sealants, does this mean I have a cavity?
Usually not. If a sealant is being done on top of carious tooth structure your dentist will let you know. But most times, sealants are done on surfaces that we suspect will get a cavity or are high risk for developing a cavity. Sealants are a great method of preventing against cavities.
How long do sealants last?
Sealants can last up to ten years with proper care. Things which influence how long sealants last include grinding habits, your bite, your oral hygiene of brushing and flossing, how often you see the dentist, how genetically predisposed you are to caries and many other factors. You sealants need to be checked by the dentist as regular intervals to make sure they are not chipping or wearing away. If your sealants do chip or wear away, your dentist can usually easily replace them.
How are sealants applied?
Applying sealants is a quick and easy procedure that both your dentist or hygienist can do. It is painless which means you do not need to get a numbing shot for this procedure. First, the tooth is cleaned well and dried off. Your dentist may give you a bite block, or tooth chair, to help you stay open. Then he or she may place some cotton around the teeth to keep them dry. Sealants need a dry environment to stay and last. A blue solution is put on the solution to make the surface a little rough so the sealant can stick on it. Then the tooth is rinsed and dried. Then the sealant is applied, rubbed on with a small brush, and then a light is used to harden it and bond it onto the tooth. If the sealant feels bumpy or high, the dentist can then easily smooth it for you.
Will an insurance cover my sealants?
Most insurances cover sealants for kids under the age of 18. Some insurances have a wider age range for coverage. It really depends on your insurance benefits. Our office can help you find out if they are covered by your specific plan. Call us now or shoot us a text message at (303) 243-5110.
Are dental sealants safe?
Sealants are very safe. They are minimally invasive, often require no removal of tooth structure and can last a very long time. Many organizations, including the ADA, AMA, CDC and WHO recommend sealants to help prevent oral health issues.
What are sealants made out of?
Sealants are made out of a thin plastic coating and are either resin based on glass ionomer based. Some sealants have fluoride built into them which releases over time to help the cavity demineralize. Sealants can also be filled or unfilled resins. Fillers are substances added to the resin, or plastic base, to protect against wear and help with bonding to tooth structure. Both types of sealants are safe, effective and painless.
Which teeth need sealants?
Teeth with deep grooves, teeth which are hard to clean and teeth which have a propensity for getting a cavity need sealants. Both adult and baby teeth can benefit from sealants.
Do you do sealants on baby teeth? Won’t they fall out anyway?
It is common for dentists to recommend sealants on baby teeth. Baby teeth are placeholders for the adult teeth and if they get cavities, they make the adult teeth that follow them more likely to get cavities also. That is why it is incredibly important to protect baby teeth from cavities too. If your child’s baby teeth have very deep grooves, getting a sealant can be an easy and painless way to prevent future fillings or extractions needed.
What will a sealant look like on my teeth?
Sealants are usually white or clear. Most people will either notice a white filling material on the top of their tooth or no change at all. Sealants cannot be seen by others when you are talking, laughing, smiling or chewing so do not worry about that.
Are sealants only for kids?
No, in fact many adults benefit from sealants greatly. Sealants are a great way to prevent against cavities. If you dentist notices that you have deep groove that keep getting food stuck inside of them, sealants may be a great painless way to make sure you do not need to get a filling on that tooth in the future. We recommend them strongly especially for young adults going off to college since this is a time when oral hygiene can dip since students are overwhelmed with other responsibilities. Sealants are a great way to protect your teeth as you get used to your new environment and develop great habits.