Sealants: helping you and your children stay cavity-freeMarch 9, 2020 10:11 am
A dental sealant doesn’t sound very exciting – in fact, you might not have heard of it at all. So what exactly is it? A dental sealant is a thin layer of durable plastic that’s applied to molars, the teeth at the back of your mouth. None of our teeth are perfectly smooth, and molars frequently have pits and fissures that are hard to clean. These nooks and crannies are perfect hiding places for bacteria, and can lead to tooth decay. Sealants are like silent heroes: filling and protecting these tiny spaces, so bad bacteria have nowhere to hide!
- Why are they necessary?
Our teeth are unique in their shape and form. While it’s great to be unique, for your teeth that might not be quite so good. The tiny cracks and gaps, particularly in the molars at the back, can be thinner than the bristle of a toothbrush. That means that cleaning these areas of food particles can be close to impossible – even if you are a thorough brusher and flosser. In these situations, a little extra help in tooth protection can be the difference between a decay-free tooth and a big filling.
- How does it work?
The process only take a few minutes and there’s no pain. First, teeth will be polished and dried. A very mild acid solution is applied, which slightly roughens the surface of the tooth – this gives the sealant something to grip onto. Then once that’s rinsed off, the sealant varnish is applied with a brush and dried using a special light. The sealant is made of plastic – a type of composite resin. The sealant takes less than a minute to bond, harden and permanently seal the tooth surface from harm. You can chew straight away. The colour is usually clear or a slight white. Your dentist will be able to monitor the condition of the sealant in your normal six-monthly dental check-up, and make sure there’s no chipping or excess wear and tear.
- Why are sealants so great?
Sealants meant that potential cavities don’t get so much of a chance to develop on the protected teeth. Sealants can also stop early damage in its tracks, preventing enamel erosion from progressing to a full-on cavity that might need to be filled. Sealant is different to fluoride varnish, which can help protect teeth from harm but is not as effective. When many people think of plastic, they think of BPAs – while the plastic used in sealants doesn’t contain BPAs once hardened, the dentist will make sure you or your child’s mouth is thoroughly rinsed after treatment, to make sure there’s no risk while it is setting.
- Who can have sealants?
Sealants are ideal for those who are more prone to tooth decay – mainly children and teenagers. The ideal timing to apply sealants is when adult molars have just shown through, though they can also be applied to baby teeth as well. The ADA (American Dental Association) supports research that showed that kids with dental sealants had their risk of tooth decay reduced by nearly 80%. Sealants have been in use since the 1970s and have plenty of good research behind them. If you look after your teeth properly, then you can expect the sealants to carry on protecting your teeth for up to ten years. They will gradually wear away over time and don’t normally need to be removed during that time. The even better news is that many dental insurance plans include sealants – so it can often be more affordable than you think, too.
Sealants are a great help for dental health, but they are no substitute for a proper dental hygiene routine. Make sure you and your children visit the dentist every six months, and brush teeth thoroughly for two minutes twice a day. Also, avoid using your teeth as tools – don’t use them to open packets or bottles. This is a good idea whether you have dental sealants to maintain, or not!
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