What’s The Deal With Seals? – An explanation of the benefits and indications for dental sealants
Many parents have heard about or have questions about dental sealants. What are they? How are they done? Should my child get them? Sealants have been an important tool in Dentistry for many years due to their protective ability. They help to protect the biting surface of teeth and prevent cavities from forming. So what are the indications for dental sealants?
Cavities are formed by bacteria
Some surfaces of the teeth are more prone to collecting bacteria and thus at a higher risk for forming cavities. Because of the way that teeth are formed, the biting surfaces of all back teeth have grooves in them. Sometimes these grooves are very deep, so deep in fact that even with proper brushing not all of the bacteria can be removed. The bacteria stuck in these deep grooves, or “fissures”, can lead to cavities. Placing sealants on these fissures help to prevent bacteria from getting stuck and make the teeth easier to clean.
Dental sealants prevent cavities
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) states that 90% of all the cavities in school-age children occur in the deep pits and fissures of teeth. It is for this reason that sealants are so important and can be such a valuable tool in preventing the most common types of cavities. A sealant’s ability to help prevent cavities and thus more extensive dental treatment in the future makes it a very cost-effective form of preventive dental treatment. Studies have shown that with appropriate follow-up care and maintenance, sealants can be 80-90% effective in reducing cavity formation. Although the majority of sealants are placed on permanent molars, the AAPD states that “any tooth, including primary teeth and permanent teeth other than molars, may benefit from sealant application due to fissure anatomy and [cavity forming] risk factors.”
Dental sealants are easy to place
The actual process of sealant placement is rather easy for the patient. Because no tooth structure is removed, there is no need for an injection or local anesthetic. First, the biting surface of the tooth is cleaned and prepared with a cleaning agent known as “etchant.” After being properly etched, a bonding agent is placed and the sealant is flowed into the deep grooves of the teeth and then “cured” with a high-intensity blue light. The key to successful sealant placement is keeping the tooth dry and preventing saliva from contaminating the biting surface while the sealant is being placed. It is for this reason that very young children sometimes may not be candidates for sealants if the teeth cannot be properly isolated. Proper follow-up care is important in ensuring the longevity and success of sealants as well as limiting habits that may damage sealants (e.g., chronic ice cube chewing).
Sealants are a safe
Sealants are a safe and effective way of preventing the most common type of cavities in school-aged children and help prevent the need for more extensive dental treatment in the future. If you have any questions about whether sealants would be an appropriate treatment for your child, be sure to ask Dr. Rubin at your next dental visit.
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