The best way to safeguard teeth against bacteria that cause cavities is having a good oral hygiene routine of brushing and flossing along with regular visits to a dentist for cleanings and oral exams. Dental sealants, however, are an additional procedure that can also be used to protect teeth.
Dental sealants are a type of plastic coating that is placed on top of the surface of permanent molars and premolars to provide an extra layer of protection between bacteria and tooth enamel. They are just one of the preventative dental care services offered by Bright Now! Dental as part of our comprehensive approach to your oral health.
Teeth need to be strong and healthy to prevent infections and cavities from forming. While the enamel on our teeth is extremely durable, the acids produced by bacteria, as well as in foods we eat and beverages we drink, can eventually begin to erode the enamel, making teeth more susceptible to cavities and decay.
Dental sealants are a covering made of liquid plastic or resin, which starts off as a liquid that is brushed onto the surface of each tooth. The liquid is then cured, a process where a UV light is shined over the resin, causing it to harden and create an impenetrable protective barrier for your teeth. Many times, this resin is clear but it may also have a slight color based on the materials used.
The surfaces of our teeth are not flat and smooth–they are covered in ridges, grooves, and pits that help us tear and chew food. The surface of the molars (or back teeth) are especially uneven, creating small crevices that are hard to clean but can easily trap the plaque, tartar, and bacteria that erode the enamel and produce cavities.
Patients with weak enamel can receive fluoride rinses or fluoride treatments at the dentist’s office to try and remineralize and strengthen the enamel on their teeth, but sealants actually smooth and seal off the surface of the tooth, making it much easier to clean and giving bacteria no where to settle. Placing them on teeth early on can help save you money and time on expensive restorative procedures necessary to treat cavities and decay.
Sealants will often last for several years before they need to be reapplied; in some cases, up to 10 years with proper care. Since dental sealants gradually wear away with time, they don’t need to be removed for a new application. As long as you have good oral hygiene and don’t use your teeth on non-food or extremely hard materials, such as tearing open packaging or chewing ice, your dental sealants should last a long time.
If you have dental sealants, your dentist can inspect them at your checkup or oral exam to determine their condition and when you may be due for reapplication. If they notice it’s time for a new application, they can do so after your next teeth cleaning or schedule a separate appointment. This will help ensure your sealants stay intact and continue protecting your teeth from cavities as effectively as possible.
In general, sealants are suggested as a preventative measure to provide an additional barrier of protection against bacteria and cavities, and while children and adults can both benefit from dental sealants, it’s important to ask your dentist when and if dental sealants are a good option for you. Adults can be good candidates for dental sealants depending on their oral health and if they’re back teeth have deep grooves or pits prone to accumulating bacteria.
For children as young as 6, protecting teeth with dental sealants on their primary teeth can help prevent cavities that can ultimately impact their permanent teeth, especially in children who struggle with dental hygiene or who have teeth that may be more prone to developing cavities in general. Additionally, the second set of permanent molars–which typically come in around the age of 12, which are teeth that benefit from dental sealant protection. (Since most wisdom teeth–a third set of molars–are removed, sealants are usually not placed on these.)
Keep in mind that dental sealants only protect the surface of your teeth and not your entire tooth. Having them doesn’t mean that you can forgo other oral hygiene measures. Be sure to continue to use fluoride treatments whenever possible to help strengthen your entire tooth, not just the surface, and practice proper at-home dental care such as brushing your teeth and flossing on a regular basis. And, as always, schedule regular professional teeth cleanings and oral exams at least twice a year.
Dental sealants can still be helpful for adults or children who have already developed a cavity. Treating a cavity with a filling doesn’t make the tooth cavity-proof; a filling treatment cleans out and fills a decayed area but doesn’t keep a cavity from happening again in the future. Using sealants, however, can provide a safeguard against further damage. Sealants are made of a clear material, so your dentist will still be able to detect if there are any dental issues that arise in the future.
Getting dental sealants is an easy dental procedure that often takes just one visit with your dentist. The process is nearly painless, since your dentist is simply placing material over your existing tooth and does not need to remove any portion of your tooth.
The dental sealant is not meant to alter your smile or interfere with your bite, and you should not feel any noticeable difference in the surface of your tooth. If there are issues with the sealant, such as an uneven bite or rubbing, the dentist may file down part of the resin to make sure the sealant fits comfortably on your teeth.
Dental sealants are easy to maintain, so there is very little you have to do beyond your daily oral hygiene routine to care for them. Be sure to brush and floss your teeth as you normally would to keep your teeth healthy and visit the dentist regularly to check on the condition of your sealant. You can also protect your sealants by not using your teeth to open, crack, or break things.
If you ever visit a new dentist for the first time, be sure to let them know about your sealants and have them check on the sealants frequently. Dental sealants will gradually wear away with time, so keeping an eye on them will help your dentist know when and if to reapply them.
Dental sealants are often considered preventative care and may be covered by your dental insurance provider. At Bright Now! Dental, we accept most dental insurance plans. If you are unsure if dental sealants are covered by your insurance, just call your nearest location and we would be happy to confirm it for you.
Dental sealants are a convenient and relatively inexpensive way to protect your dental health and avoid bigger, more costly procedures in the future. At Bright Now! Dental, we believe in making preventative care like dental sealants affordable and easy to access, so in addition to offering flexible payment plans and the OneSmile Dental Plan, we also offer regular money-saving coupons and promotions to help you pay for the care you deserve.
Dental sealants are a small investment in long-term dental health, whether for your child or yourself. If you think you or your child could benefit from dental sealants, make an appointment with Bright Now! Dental today. Not only can we help find the right preventative treatment option for you–from sealants and cleanings to fluoride and x-rays–but we also provide a wide range of restorative and cosmetic services to help turn the smile you have into the smile you want. Find out more about all the ways Bright Now! Dental can make your oral health shine better and brighter.