What are sealants?
Sealants are a thin, resin protective coating that are applied to the grooves on the biting surfaces of permanent molar teeth shortly after they erupt. The goal of dental sealants is to prevent the formation and progression of tooth decay. These pits and grooves are highly susceptible to decay formation because they can be quite deep and unable to keep fully clean. Sealants are generally placed in school-age children shortly after the teeth erupt into the mouth, as research shows that teeth are more prone to the initiation and development of decay between the ages of 6 and 14. The teeth typically sealed are the 6-year and 12-year molars, though in some cases the more forward-positioned premolar teeth may be sealed as well. The material used for sealants is similar to that of composite resin fillings (see our fillings page for more information), with the difference being that it starts out in a more flowable consistency to fully seal all the deep grooves and anatomy of the teeth.
What are the benefits of sealants?
- Prevention of decay before it starts
- Increased ability to brush and maintain teeth
- No numbing required to place sealants
- Placement is quick and painless
How are sealants placed?
Applying dental sealants is a quick and painless process. It takes only a few minutes and may be done by either our dentists or hygienists using the following steps:
- The teeth that are to be sealed are thoroughly cleaned of any plaque and debris.
- The teeth are dried and isolated from moisture.
- An etching solution is applied to the pits and grooves of the teeth to prepare the tooth enamel for bonding.
- The sealant material is flowed into the prepared areas of the teeth, then cured using a special curing light.
How long do sealants last?
Sealants can protect teeth from decay for many years, but as with fillings or other dental restorations, it is recommended that they be checked regularly at the cleaning appointments. In most cases, sealants will begin to wear down when the patient reaches their 20s or 30s. At that time they may either be replaced or be allowed to wear away completely depending on the patient’s risk for tooth decay. As mentioned above, the primary function of sealants is to protect the teeth during their early years when they are most prone to decay formation, so they may not need to be replaced later on if the patient is at low risk for tooth decay.
Should my child have sealants?
Research shows that sealants can reduce the risk of decay by nearly 80%. This reduction in decay risk can greatly benefit 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. According to the C.D.C., “School-age children without sealants have almost three times more cavities than children with sealants.” Our doctors and staff here at 44 West Dental Professionals believe strongly in the benefits of dental sealants and have seen the value they have provided for patients over the years. If you would like to discuss if sealants are a good choice for your child, give us a call at (616) 530-2200 today.