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Sealants: Everything A Parent Needs To Know

What Are Dental Sealants?

Dental sealants are thin, clear coatings that seal over the narrow grooves found on the chewing surfaces of back teeth (molars and premolars). The protective material is stationed perfectly covering these deep pits. The procedure is quick, painless and takes than 2-3 minutes per tooth to complete.The ultimate goal of sealants is to prevent significant amounts of tooth decay (which incite cavities) by guarding and supporting the sensitive tooth surfaces from the acid that leads to access build-up and cavities. Generally, sealants are not positioned on baby teeth but on the fully developed tooth enamel of permanent teeth (“adult” teeth). Baby molars have less pits and fissures and do not usually require sealants.

Much like ‘sealing’ the cracks of a driveway or sidewalk, the dental material functions similarly after it is placed over the grooves. Food particles and bacteria will be blocked from settling within fissures, which is the leading cause related to cavities. In many instances, pediatric dentists apply sealants if deemed appropriate in children as an action step to prevent tooth decay or further damage. Sealants are not a substitute or alternative for brushing, flossing and a healthy diet when it comes to preventative measures in dental care. Remember that sealants are only placed on the biting surfaces of the patient’s back teeth – so they do not seal out decay on the sides of teeth or in between teeth. Great attention to brushing and flossing is still key for healthy dentition.

We @ Palo Alto Dental Spa will thoroughly examine all teeth and recommend dental sealants as indicated. Sealants are one of the most efficient and cost-effective ways to prevent decay on back molars. Sealants can be placed on all patients, but the focus is usually on young children and teenagers who are most prone to developing cavities. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry pits and fissures on the chewing surfaces of molars account for nearly 88% of all childhood cavities. Placing sealants on your child’s permanent molars is incredibly important for health and financial purposes. KidZdent may offer and recommend dental sealants as an option, but we do so under the guidance of that professional criteria is met along with the proper application techniques.

THE PROCESS: How are Sealants Applied to Teeth?

The placement of dental sealant is an easy process to complete.

Sealants are very easy to apply. The teeth to be sealed are cleaned of all of the plaque and/or food particles, and thoroughly examined for any signs of tooth decay. The chewing surface is conditioned with a cleaning solution to help the sealant adhere to the tooth. The sealant material is painted on to the grooved areas where the sealant hardens with the help of a curing light.

Once the teeth have been cleaned of all of the plaque and/or food particles, each tooth is thoroughly examined for any signs of tooth decay. Once the selected tooth is dried from the cleaning solution, it is surrounded by the absorbent agent to encourage the bonding of the sealant. The often, viscous material is then directly painted onto the chewing surface of each tooth as needed. It is important to isolate each tooth to ensure the elimination of bacteria prior to sealing. If a small cavity does happen to be detected, our team will be able to clean out any infection before placement. Final steps may include a curing light used to harden the dental sealant.

Can a Sealant be Placed Over Existing Tooth Decay?

Although, sealants may technically be placed over small cavities to prevent major spread of tooth decay, we would never recommend not treating existing decay- especially if there are steps available that we can do to potentially reverse it, depending on the extent of the deterioration. Tooth decay needs to be treated with a dental restoration, and then sealants will be applied on all exposed grooves and the margins of the restoration to help prevent further decay.

How Long Do Dental Sealants Last?

Sealants hold up very well under normal chewing and usually last for several years. Sealants can protect teeth from decay for up to 10 years depending on the material, technique and age in which you received treatment. If your children are prone to clenching, teeth grinding, experience the condition of acid reflux or are overly exposed to a highly acidic diet, the sealants may not last as long as intended. Your dentist will check the condition of the sealants at your preventive care visits and recommend reapplication as needed.

How Does a Parent Help Their Child Care for Sealants?

Dental sealants are just as easy to care for as one’s teeth in their natural state in the sense that they can be brushed and flossed as normal and routine. It’s always best to use a toothbrush with soft bristles and a toothpaste using a re-mineralizing agent like hydroxyapatite and/or a fluoride toothpaste twice daily.

If your child is someone with a diet high in berries or colorful fruit juices, they may be more inclined to stain, or even “pop” off if consistently eating sticky or gummy candies and sugary foods. Diet plays an important role in caring for both your teeth and dental sealants. Maintaining healthy dietary and home care habits is essential to good oral health.

What is the Goal of Dental Sealants & Do They Work?

Dental sealants that are placed just after new teeth erupt and prior to staining or decay, will work best to prevent cavities as intended. If dental sealants are placed correctly and at the right stage, they will work to prevent cavities and further tooth decay. Most dental research backs up with evidence the reduction of cavities in children who have sealants by 80%. However, as they enter into adulthood, dietary patterns, dental hygiene habits, level of dental care and other controllable variables suggest more long-term follow-ups may be needed.

Risks of Dental Sealants

Based on scientific research, there are no adverse effects likely to occur when dental sealants are placed. Dental sealants are also a painless treatment.

The only risk revealed involves if the teeth are not thoroughly examined for dental caries (tooth decay) prior to placement. If there is hidden tooth decay underneath that has not been detected and removed by the dentist, it can potentially lead to healthy teeth requiring a filling down the road, or in extreme cases even extractions or nerve therapy (however, rare).

Who Benefits Most from Dental Sealants?

Ideal candidates for dental sealants include but are not limited to children as a preventative care measure, including those: With very deep grooves in their molars; at a high risk for cavities; those who consume a diet high in processed foods, refined flours and sugars, and sugary drinks; individuals with special needs which can make dental hygiene and/or a healthy diet more challenging, etc.

Dental sealants are typically recommended for all patients to help prevent decay in the vulnerable grooved areas of molars and premolars.

Ideally, sealants should be placed immediately after the eruption of the first molars (around age 6) and second molars (around age 12). The earlier the better to ensure the grooves have not been affected with bacteria or early cavities.

Can Dental Sealants be Removed?

Generally speaking, once a sealant is placed, it’s not usually removed unless the dentist spots a problem. Removal will still leave a healthy tooth structure intact, which can be resealed if recommended or desired.

Potential Reasons for the Removal of Dental Sealants

  • Reseal a tooth with a different type of material, like ceramic;

  • Correct chips or cracks in existing dental sealants;

  • Eliminate poorly placed sealants;

  • Expose and restore decay in unsealed areas of the tooth;

If you are considering dental sealants or have additional questions, please inquire and consult with us.

Are Dental Sealants Covered by Dental Insurance?

Most dental insurance covers dental sealants for people under 18, however there are many options and financial plans available if sealants are not covered. Some insurance companies will only cover sealants on specific teeth or after a dental exam.

Sealants traditionally are a cost-effective solution even before insurance coverage.

Are Sealants Right for My Child?

Sealants are a necessary preventive procedure, because most molars have pits and fissures that cannot be protected from decay with brushing alone. Many children are a significantly higher risk for decay due to frequent snacking or grazing, and eating a lot of sticky, processed foods (suck as candy, pretzels, chips, fruit snacks, etc.). The naturally occurring deep, groovy anatomy on teeth, a history of cavities, or even have a challenge keeping up with proper oral hygiene, make sealants even more necessary for your child. Also, protective sealants are advised if your child may be diagnosed as a higher risk patient due to special needs or sensory disorders which may prohibit them from appropriate home-care. However, no one can assess these risks better than you and your dentist together. Using the information provided, along with a professional recommendation, is the best guidance on whether or not dental sealants are the right decision for your child.It is important for parents to feel comfortable and trust their pediatric dentist with their techniques, materials and treatment when considering dental sealants.

How to Prevent Cavities without Dental Sealants

As always, the most effective preventative care includes proper oral hygiene, regular dental check-ups and cleanings, and a clean diet!

Tips for Preventing Cavities

  • Clean up your diet by eating real, nutrient-dense, whole foods and avoiding processed or sugary beverages and food.

  • Practice good oral hygiene, including flossing, tongue scraping, brushing teeth at least two times a day; ideally in the morning and before bed time. (After meals would be great, too if you can!)

  • Use fluoride toothpaste to benefit the remineralization and strengthening of our teeth.

  • Avoid “grazing” eating patterns and eat at specific times during the day.

  • Note and address any mouth breathing habits, which can cause dry mouth and disrupt the oral microbiome.

  • Don’t skip dental check-ups, allowing your dentist to closely monitor your dental health and development as well as assess for tooth decay is crucial to a life time of healthy teeth and gums.

Foods that support healthy teeth include those high in:

  • Protein

  • Healthy fats

  • Fiber

  • Antioxidants

  • Vitamins

  • Minerals like phosphorus, magnesium, and calcium

Keeping your oral microbiome in balance is a great way to ensure your body’s overall wellness and thrive in all areas of your child’s development.

Not only will your smiles be brighter and happier, but your whole-body health will shine!

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