Dental sealants are a thin plastic coating applied to the chewing surfaces of back teeth with deep pits and fissures (grooves) to help prevent the formation of dental caries (dental cavity).
Below left is a closeup of a tooth with deep pits and fissures. It is nearly impossible for a toothbrush to effectively clean plaque
and food debris from the base of these grooves.
Below right, is a closeup of the tooth with a dental sealant. The chewing surface is smooth and enables a toothbrush to effectively clean the chewing surface of the tooth.
How does a dental cavity form?
In order to understand the benefits of dental sealants, it’s important to understand how a dental cavity forms in the first place.
A dental cavity (aka dental caries) is the result of a bacterial infection. Our mouth contains a combination of beneficial and bad bacteria. The bad bacteria uses sugars consumed in our consumed food and beverages to make an acid. This acid demineralizes or weakens the outermost layer of our tooth called tooth enamel.
Enzymes in our saliva and fluoride in our toothpaste and drinking water help to remineralize the destruction. Too many repeated attacks will eventually result in the formation of a hole, or a dental cavity in a tooth or teeth. Teeth diagnosed with dental caries
is irreversible and requires your dentist to place a dental filling.
How do sealants prevent a dental cavity?
A dental sealant is like a shield, it will prevent the acid from consumed foods and beverages from demineralizing vulnerable deep pits and grooves on permanent molars so long as the dental sealant remains completely bonded.
The dental sealant material is applied to the chewing surface of a back molar tooth with deep pits and grooves. Afterwards, the sealant material is cured with a special blue light that will harden and bond the dental sealant to the tooth. The result is a smooth, easy to brush and keep clean tooth surface protected from acid demineralization.
How effective are dental sealants?
It is nearly impossible for toothbrush bristles to effectively clean the base of teeth with deep pits and grooves. Numerous studies have shown that unsealed molar teeth with deep pits and fissures are at highest risk for dental caries.
Dental sealants provide 100% caries protection in pits and fissures that remain completely sealed.
Source: National Institute of Health
Dental sealants: a public health perspective
The American Dental Association (ADA), Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the National Institute of Health (NIH) all recognize that dental caries among children is an epidemic and advocate for the placement of dental sealants and the protection
In fact, dental caries is one of twenty six leading factors that are included in the Healthy People 2020 initiative by the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Their goal is to improve the health and well being of people living in the US by 2020.
Our own Minnesota Department of Health is an active participant in this initiative.
In 2015, the Minnesota Department of Health’s Oral Health Program completed an open mouth assessment of caries experience along with the presence of dental sealants among a representative sample of third graders in Minnesota public schools. Their results showed that half of Minnesota’s third graders have or have had tooth decay.
What teeth benefit the most from dental sealants?
Permanent back molar teeth benefit the most from the placement of sealants. Their chewing surface often has deep
pits and grooves which are difficult to clean and effectively reach with a toothbrush.
When should dental sealants be placed?
The best time to place a dental sealant is as soon as the chewing (occlusal) surface is visible in the the mouth. A permanent set of teeth has 3 sets of molars.
First molars erupt between five and seven years old. Second molars, erupt around twelve years old. Third molars or wisdom teeth have a wide range of eruption, typically from sixteen to thirty years old. Because many people have their wisdom teeth extracted, dental sealants are typically only applied to first and second permanent molars.
Who should get dental sealants?
Anyone who is at high risk for dental caries and has unsealed permanent molars with deep pits and fissures (grooves).
Dental sealant procedure
Each dental sealant takes only a couple of minutes to place and requires no drilling or anesthetic. A dental sealant is applied to a tooth in 5 easy steps.
- Tooth to be sealed is thoroughly cleaned, rinsed, and dried.
- A blue gel (etch solution) is applied to chewing surface of tooth for 30 seconds before tooth is rinsed and dried.
- Dental sealant material is applied to fill deep pits and grooves of tooth.
- Dental professional will shine a blue light on tooth to cure, harden, and bond the sealant to the tooth.
- Check to ensure sealant is retentive.
How long does it take to place a dental sealant?
Each dental sealant can be applied in just a few minutes.
Ready to schedule an appointment?
Call (763) 586-9988 to schedule or click button below to request an appointment by email.
Does getting dental sealants hurt?
No. The application of sealants does not require any drilling or anesthetic.
How to care for dental sealants
Dental sealants are easy to care for and have an average lifespan between five to ten years. Listed below are some easy care tips.
- Brush and floss teeth daily
- Minimize consumption of acid containing beverages like soft drinks and juice. Over time, the acid in these beverages can lead to premature breakdown and integrity of sealant.
- Avoid chewing ice. It can chip the sealant and leave previously sealed tooth vulnerable to dental caries in between professional dental visits. Also prevents teeth from developing cracks and tooth sensitivity.
- Maintain six month preventive professional teeth cleaning visits. Your dentist will examine each sealant for retention
during each dental caries examination.
How long do dental sealants last?
Dental sealants are considered permanent. There are alot of variables that impact the lifespan of a sealant. On average, dental sealants last between five and ten years. Your dentist will examine each sealant for retention during every dental exam.
How much do dental sealants cost?
Are dental sealants covered by dental insurance?
Most dental insurance plans provide benefit coverage for dental sealants. Insurance plans vary. Please feel free to ask one of our patient care coordinators regarding your specific insurance plan prior to scheduling your child’s dental sealant appointment.
Fluoridated toothpaste versus dental sealants. Which is better?
Use of fluoridated toothpaste and the placement of dental sealants both help protect teeth from developing
Effective toothbrushing with a fluoridated toothpaste does help to reduce the ability of the bad bacteria to make acid that demineralizes tooth enamel (outermost layer of a tooth) on the smooth surfaces of our teeth.
For molar teeth, its nearly impossible for toothbrush bristles to reach the base of molar’s deep pits and fissures. For these surfaces, dental sealants are recommended. The sealant material will completely fill the deep pits and grooves of molar teeth and make it
easy to effectively clean and protect these surfaces from dental caries.
What is the difference between a dental sealant and a dental filling?
A dental sealant is a thin plastic coating bonded to the chewing surface of molar teeth to prevent the formation of dental caries.
Can dental sealants be placed if I have dental braces?
Dental sealants can be applied no matter if your child or teenager has dental braces (orthodontics). Orthodontic brackets are
bonded to either the front or backside of teeth and orthodontic bands are bonded to the outer perimeter of back molars. Neither, interfere with the visible chewing surface where dental sealants are applied.
Will dental sealants help reduce tooth sensitivity?
A dental sealant may help reduce temperature or chewing sensitivity if your dentist determines that the source of your tooth sensitivity originates from a virgin, permanent molar tooth with deep pits and grooves. If not, your dentist will discuss alternate options to manage your sensitive tooth.
Dental sealants and receding gums
Dental sealants do not help reduce tooth sensitivity commonly associated with receding gums. Receding gums impact the smooth surfaces of teeth at the gumline of a tooth. Dental sealants are only placed on the chewing surface (not smooth)
of teeth. Instead, your dentist may recommend the placement of a tooth colored filling to eliminate tooth sensitivity.
Ready to schedule an appointment?
Call (763) 586-9988 to schedule or click button below to request an appointment .