What You Need to Know About Dental Sealant
People who visit the dentist with their children may be told that their teeth might benefit from a dental sealant. However, many patients may not completely understand what a sealant is, how it works, and why it is beneficial. In addition, a recent study has shown that dental sealants may also be useful for some adults.
What is a Dental Sealant?
A dental sealant is a substance placed on the surface of the teeth in order to act as protector against potential cavities. Because teeth in the back of the mouth are riddled with crevices and indentations, even regular and rigorous brushing cannot always eliminate the opportunity for bacteria to grow in the dark recesses. The spaces between the teeth are particularly susceptible to cavities, so a dental sealant made of a thin plastic coating can be used to protect the teeth from decay. Dental sealants used for this purpose have been found particularly beneficial for children when applied soon after their molars appear, between six years and twelve years of age. This sealant helps get a head start on caring for these important permanent teeth for a lifetime.
How Does a Dental Sealant Work?
Dental sealant is a thin layer of material that forms a physical barrier to protect the teeth from potential degradation caused by food particles, or sugary beverages, which can sneak in between the teeth. Sealants are quick and easy to apply, with no pain for the patient, right at the dentist’s office.
Before application of the sealant, the teeth are first cleaned and prepared by a dental hygienist. After the sealant is painted onto the tooth enamel, a light may be shined on the surface area for a minute to help the sealant set. Once the surface dries, the process is finished.
What Benefits Do Dental Sealants Have?
While originally created to seal the teeth to prevent cavities, particularly in children, dental sealants have now been proven advantageous in another way. New research shows that dental sealants can be useful in avoiding tooth sensitivity in adults. Patients who suffer from pain related to extreme food or beverage temperatures may have such sensitivity because of exposed nerves or roots or surfaces of the teeth. The thin layer of protection provided by a dental sealant may help eliminate this pain. In fact, when compared with the use of sensitivity toothpaste or a resin-based filling compound, the dental sealant rated the highest in eliminating hypersensitivity.
What to Expect from Dental Sealants
To the outside world, sealants on the teeth cannot be seen. Because they are made of either clear or tooth-colored resin, they are virtually invisible to the naked eye. Regular wear-and-tear may eventually cause sealants to be damaged, particularly on the surface of molars which are used to chew food. Even so, dental sealants typically will last five years, even up to a decade, without needing to be replaced. Regular dental check-ups will help to maintain sealants and the dentist will inform the patient if sealants do need to be replaced. Although the upfront cost of dental sealants may seem high, in comparison to the cost and pain of fillings or sensitive toothpaste, the long-lasting effect makes them relatively affordable.
Dental sealants are part of an overall dental care plan designed for individual patients. In addition to regular brushing, flossing, and cleanings, sealants may provide an added measure of protection from decay and sensitivity. Patients should talk to their dentist about the need for sealants in their own dental care plans.