You may have read or heard about dental sealants and may be looking to determine if it’s a suitable dental treatment for you. While this procedure is usually common for kids, adults can benefit from them too. This is especially true if you’re fond of eating sweets or often miss brushing your teeth in full two minutes twice daily because of busy work; your teeth may have grooves and pits that need prompt dental attention.
One of the most common dental clinic procedures to treat cavities is the application of dental sealants. In this article, you’ll learn about dental sealants and their pros and cons.
What Are Dental Sealants?
Food particles usually adhere in fissures, natural pits, or hard-to-clean groovy areas. And because fissures are small and located at the back, they can be difficult to reach when brushing. As a result, bacteria accumulate, leading to tooth decay. This is where getting dental sealants to prevent tooth decay and treat cavities come in.
Dental sealants are made of a thin, plastic coating used to fill up the tooth’s fissures, making them even and smooth. They can be made of either composite resin or a glass ionomer, protecting the tooth’s enamel from decay and damage.
Dental Sealants Vs. Dental Fillings
Dental sealants coat the teeth, forming a shield to prevent bacterial buildup and decay. And perhaps, you may be asking, ‘What makes dental sealants different from dental fillings?’
Dental sealant application is a preventive procedure, whereas dental filling is restorative. Unlike a dental filling, wherein the tooth is drilled down to remove the decayed enamel, and filled with composite resin fillings, dental sealant application is non-invasive. It only involves applying the sealant after cleaning the tooth, and that’s it.
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Types Of Dental Sealant Materials
As briefly mentioned earlier, dental sealants can be made from different materials. Here’s a quick overview to give an understanding of the dental sealants application process and the common types used today:
- Composite Resin Dental Sealants: Composite resin is made of plastic or acrylic resin, mimicking the natural color of the teeth. Dentists use a curing light to bond them in the chewing surfaces of the molars and premolars, which are vulnerable to tooth decay.
Getting composite resin dental sealants can be a good option since they’re easy to apply and have color-matching capabilities, giving your teeth a more natural look. However, this type is slightly more expensive than its counterpart, glass ionomer.
- Glass Ionomer Dental Sealants: This material is an excellent alternative to plastic dental sealants. They can be a more suitable option for children with baby teeth since, unlike composite resin that uses a curing light, dentists apply an acidic solution to the tooth’s chewing surface for the ionomer glass sealant to adhere.
Similar to composite resin dental sealants, it also offers a natural tooth-colored appearance. However, they’re less durable.
Top Advantages of Dental Sealants
Your dentist may recommend you get dental sealants as a preventive measure and to care for your teeth. But aside from oral health benefits, here are other advantages of dental sealants:
- Non-Invasive And Painless Procedure
Dental sealant application is generally a non-invasive and pain-free procedure. Patients don’t have to worry about dealing with anesthesia or sophisticated dental tools such as large syringes and dental pliers. That’s why dental sealants are the most recommended procedure for preventive dental maintenance among children.
Patients are usually advised to set a clinic appointment to get the procedure done. Depending on the state’s regulations, any licensed dental professional can apply dental sealants because this procedure doesn’t involve highly specialized dental skills.
Patients can sit comfortably in the dental chair during the procedure and wait for the dentist’s instructions. The dentist just needs to position the patient’s head to isolate the tooth for treatment.
- Fast And Easy Process
The bonding of dental sealants only takes a few minutes for each tooth, which means that your dentist can apply sealants to all molars in one clinic visit. As such, this procedure doesn’t have a long post-procedure recovery, making it an outpatient dental treatment.
During the procedure, your dentist first prepares the tooth for dental sealing by brushing it before acid etching. To prevent saliva contamination, the dentist will isolate the tooth using cotton balls. Afterward, the dentist will etch the molar surface with either gel or liquid phosphoric acid. After rinsing the etchant, the dentist can now apply and cure the sealant.
But aside from a quick procedure, post-procedure care advice is also generally easy. Patients are advised to brush their teeth twice and floss daily, and avoid sugary, sticky, and hard-to-chew foods that can crack or damage the sealant.
- Effective In Reducing Cavities
Dental sealants can help reduce tooth cavities by up to 80% in children. And because nine in 10 cavities occur in the molars, dental sealant application is considered beneficial in children’s oral health. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control or CDC pointed out the importance of this procedure for school-aged children. CDC also reported that dental sealant application in schools could save up to US$300 million in oral treatment costs.
However, adults can also get dental sealants to minimize cavity development. This is a great preventive approach since people will likely develop poor eating habits and oral hygiene as they age.
- Help Reduce Dental Anxiety
It’s not uncommon for some people to experience dental phobia. However, whether the patient is a child or an adult, dental phobia can lead to dental health deterioration. With dental anxiety, one may be afraid to report toothache, gum swelling, and other oral health problems and see a dental professional.
Dental fear is usually associated with traumatic first-time dental clinic visits. A good example is a first-time tooth extraction, which involves injecting anesthesia into the gum tissue surrounding the tooth. You may have a similar story to share about yourself or a loved one.
Aside from reducing cavities, dental sealants can help reduce the number of children or adults experiencing dental anxiety. Because bonding dental sealants are less invasive, they can help patients associate positive memories when visiting dental clinics or dealing with dentists. This preventive dental procedure can help establish a more pleasant patient experience, promoting a more nurturing and meaningful dentist-patient relationship.
- Older People Can Have Dental Sealants
As mentioned earlier, as people age, dental concerns can develop. Older people also take different maintenance medications for chronic diseases, such as hypertension, diabetes, and degenerative medical disorders. Most of these drugs cause dryness in the mouth.
Older people and disabled patients can benefit from dental sealants. Because patients with dementia, multiple sclerosis, and other disabilities have difficulty maintaining their dental health, they’re more prone to dental cavities. Adult dental sealants can help protect their teeth from tooth decay due to aging, poor eating habits, medication intake, and poor dental hygiene.
Top Drawbacks of Dental Sealants
While the advantages of dental sealants are promising, it’s equally important to know their disadvantages too, and these include:
- Only Offers Surface Protection
Dental sealants are only applied on chewing surfaces, which means they can’t protect deeper fissures and the gumline against cavities. As such, if you have other dental concerns, talk to your dentist about other treatment options aside from surface preventive measures.
- Not Applicable For Filled And Decayed Teeth
Another limitation of dental sealants is they’re not applicable for filled and decayed teeth. Dentists only recommend bonding sealants over a tooth surface in its early stage of decay to prevent further tooth damage.
Other Important Things To Consider
As you weigh the pros and cons of sealants indicated above, it can also be helpful to consider factors like safety and longevity, as discussed below:
Safety must always be everyone’s priority, especially when choosing the right dental treatments for your family. So, what are the advantages and cons of dental sealants as far as safety is concerned?
Because dental sealants are a common treatment for children, parents have questions about the bisphenol A or BPA content in sealants. This synthetic compound is found in plastics, which can significantly harm children’s health. Some experts say that trace BPA amounts may leach from sealants after application due to the hydrolysis of a common monomer, Bis-DMA, in dental resin formulations.
However, the American Dental Association or ADA said dental sealants are safe because they only contain trace BPA. Parents can always consult pediatric dentists about using BPA-free sealants for their children.
When considering getting dental sealants, many people have questions about their longevity. Most dental sealants can last for five to 10 years. Some people may even have a longer time frame before replacement. But, as a good practice, a regular dental check-up can help ensure your sealants are still effective and help you determine if you need to replace your dental sealants.
On the other hand, some dentists recommend not waiting to reach the lifespan of dental sealants before replacement. Fissures can be so tiny, invisible to the naked eye. And so, replacing them before the average lifespan is better before it’s too late.
Dentists highly recommend dental sealant application to help prevent dental cavities. After learning the advantages and disadvantages of dental sealants, you can make a more informed decision about when and why you should consider this procedure. Most importantly, consult a dental health expert for professional oral health assessment and treatment advice.