What is a Sealant?
A dental sealant is a thin plastic film painted on the chewing surface of teeth to prevent cavities. Dental sealants act as a barrier, protecting the tooth enamel against plaque, acids, and decay-causing bacteria. The sealants are usually applied to the chewing surface of the back teeth where decay occurs most often.
Two major breakthroughs have taken place in the prevention of tooth decay: fluoride and sealants. Dentists have learned that balanced fluoride treatments can help defend the teeth against decay and that the application of sealants can further offer protection for the teeth.
Is sealant application a complicated procedure?
Sealants are easy for your dentist to apply, and it takes only a few minutes to seal each tooth. The teeth that will be sealed are cleaned. Then the chewing surface is roughened with an acid solution to help the sealant adhere to the tooth. The sealant is then ‘painted’ with a very thin layer of the sealant coating, onto the tooth enamel, where it bonds directly to the tooth and hardens. Since the coating is clear or white, it blends easily with the natural tooth color.
Sometimes a special curing light is used to help the sealant harden. Sealant treatment is painless and takes anywhere from five to 45 minutes to apply, depending on how many teeth need to be sealed.
As long as the sealant remains intact, the tooth surface will be protected from decay. Sealants hold up well under the force of normal chewing and usually last several years before a reapplication is needed. During your regular dental visits, your dentist will check the condition of the sealants and reapply them when necessary.
Who should receive sealant treatment?
The dental sealant procedure is usually performed on children because they have newly erupted, permanent teeth and receive the greatest benefit from sealants. The chewing surface of a child’s tooth is most susceptible to cavities. Surveys show that the majority of all cavities occur in the narrow pits and grooves of a child’s newly erupted teeth because food particles and bacteria cannot be cleaned out. Other patients also can benefit from sealant placement, such as those who have existing pits and grooves susceptible to decay.
Thorough brushing and flossing help remove food particles and plaque from smooth surfaces of teeth. But toothbrush bristles cannot reach all the way into the depressions and grooves to extract food and plaque. Sealants protect these vulnerable areas by “sealing out” plaque and food.
Are sealants covered by insurance?
Insurance benefits for sealant procedures have increased considerably, especially as companies start to realize that sealants are a proven preventive technique. This preventive measure can help reduce future dental expenses and protect the teeth from more aggressive forms of treatment.
When paired with good oral health care and visiting your dentist regularly, dental sealants are 100-percent effective against cavities in teeth that are sealed and properly maintained. It is important to note that sealants do not replace fluoride. Rather, they add to the benefits of fluoride, and may preserve teeth so that they do not decay or require more extensive dental procedures later on. Ask your dentist at your next visit about the benefits of dental sealants, and seal out tooth decay forever.