Dental sealants or Tooth sealants are plastic coatings that protect the chewing surfaces of your teeth from bacteria and plaque that cause tooth decay. These are mainly applied to the grooves of your back teeth - premolars and molars - wherein decay occurs frequently. You will find that most of the tooth decay that occurs in children as well as teens happens in these tooth surfaces. Application of this coating protects chewing surfaces from germs as well as food items sticking to the grooves of these teeth. The best way to protect the permanent teeth of your child is to apply dental sealant. Adults can also benefit with this. IN US insurance companies pay for application of dental sealant on children's teeth; but they don't cover adult teeth.
The dental sealants are plastic resins and they can be bonded into the fissures and pits of the tooth to make the tooth surface smooth; this will facilitate the bristles of the tooth brush to access all areas of your tooth and remove the plaque thereby preventing tooth decay. Another problem that you could face is that the thickness of the enamel layer in the fissures and pits is lesser than that in the other parts of the tooth. This means that this area is not only susceptible for cavity formation but also the cavities will penetrate the enamel layer in a shorter period. The teeth that are likely to be benefited by the application of this plastic coating are the permanent molars. It is ideal if you get the sealant applied immediately after the eruption of teeth and this will prevent tooth decay.
The process of application of sealants is relatively simple and does not warrant any drilling or removal of tooth structure. The whole process might take a few minutes for every tooth. Sealants are capable of withstanding the normal chewing pressures. The sealant normally remains intact for 5-10 years and as long as the sealant remains the surface of your tooth will not decay; you may require a second application only after a number of years after consulting with your dentist.
Dental sealants and aesthetics
Existence of sealants in your mouth can be seen for others only if they observe it closely. Sealants come in different shades such as clear, white, slightly tinted etc. and hence cannot be seen while talking or smiling. However, you can feel the existence of the sealant with your tongue.
Dental sealants or Fluoride
It is not possible to replace fluorides with dental sealants. They have to work in conjunction with each other to prevent tooth decay. Sealants prevent accumulation of germs and food particles out of the grooves.
Cavity filling VS sealant application
Sealant application is a preventive process whereas filling is the treatment carried out after your tooth is damaged because of tooth decay. Filling weakens your tooth because every time filling is done the dentist drills your teeth. You can save money, time and discomfort with dental sealants as compared to fillings.
Most of the sealant materials contain BPA - Bisphenol A - and this is an endocrine disruptor that causes negative health effects. FDA is also concerned about its exposure to fetuses, children and infants. However, recent studies have shown that the dental sealants can be used safely on kids as long as the dentists ensure that all the residues of the sealants are rinsed or wiped out after application. On the other hand the researchers of this study are of the opinion that using sealants on pregnant women is to be avoided as far as possible unless the treatment is an absolute necessity.