What are sealants and why are they important?
Sealants are a thin protective coating that adheres to the pits and fissures of the chewing surfaces of the back teeth we call “molars”. The procedure is simple and painless. The sealant is painted on as a liquid and quickly hardens to form a shield over the tooth. The chewing surfaces of back teeth are rough and uneven because they have small pits and grooves. Food and germs can get stuck in the pits and grooves and stay there a long time because toothbrush bristles cannot brush them away. There are many benefits of sealants but the most important reason is to avoid tooth decay. Brushing and flossing is the best way to prevent tooth decay, but it’s not always easy to clean every nook and cranny of your teeth – especially those back teeth you use to chew (molars). Fluoride in toothpaste and in drinking water helps protect the smooth surfaces, but back teeth are rough and groovy and need extra protection. Having sealants put on teeth will save time and money in the long run by avoiding fillings or crowns – which are used to fix decayed teeth.
The ADA states that: “sealants have been shown to reduce the risk of decay by nearly 80% in molars. This is especially important when it comes to your child’s dental health. In October 2016, the Centers for Disease Control released a report on the importance of sealants for school-aged children, of which only 43% of children ages 6-11 have.” (1) According to the CDC, “school-age children without sealants have almost three times more cavities than children with sealants.” (1)
How are they placed?
- The tooth is cleaned
- The tooth is dried with air
- A blue gel is brushed on that makes the surface a little rough – helps the sealant adhere to the tooth better.
- The tooth is then rinsed & dried again
- The sealant is then placed and is hardened with a curing light – takes a few seconds
- The sealant is in place
Two common concerns people have; are there any side effects and is there BPA in sealants? With the exception of an allergy one might have, which is very rare, there are no known side effects from sealants (1). There is a tiny amount of BPA in sealants, but not enough to cause any harm. The ADA states that you get more exposure to BPA from “simply touching a receipt, using cosmetics or coming in contact with dust” (1).
Children and adults can both benefit from sealants. It’s best to place sealants as soon as possible on children’s 6 and 12 year molars after they erupt to try to keep them cavity free from the start. Over time they may need to be replaced, which is normal as they get worn down. Insurance companies usually will only pay for children to have them up to age 14, so make sure you get them done as soon as possible.