At any dentist’s office, you hear all about a number of different procedures done on teeth. Some of the more common ones include fillings and sealants. You probably first heard the word “sealant” in the dentist’s chair when you were a kid, but probably didn’t fully understand what it meant. Here is a quick review of everything you need to know about them!
Sealants can offer an additional level of protection for your teeth. A great “safety net” for those hard to reach areas when brushing, sealants provide peace of mind for any patient. While there is no suitable alternative to brushing and flossing, sealants are great for anyone who might be inconsistent with their brushing, especially children and teens.
What is a sealant? Think of it as a raincoat for your teeth! It’s a thin, plastic coating placed on the chewing surfaces of teeth—usually molars—to prevent tooth decay. The coating quickly bonds into the depressions and grooves of the tooth, forming a protective shield over the enamel of each tooth. Sealants have been shown to reduce decay by up to 80%! And studies have shown that children without sealants have almost three times more cavities than those with sealants.
Here’s what to expect if you or a family member has an appointment to get a sealant:
- The tooth getting the sealant will be cleaned and dried.
- An acidic gel is then placed on the tooth to “roughen up” the surface, creating a strong bond between tooth and sealant. After just a few seconds, the gel is rinsed off and the tooth is dried again.
- Then, the sealant is applied to the grooves of the tooth.
- In the final step, a special curing light is used to harden the sealant.
And that’s it! This can be done on multiple teeth during one appointment and the entire process can take anywhere between 5 to 45 minutes, depending on the number of teeth being sealed. Once teeth are sealed, the sealant can last up to 10 years. They are checked during regular visits and your dentist will let you know if it is time for a reapplication.
Even if cavities are present, sealants can still offer numerous benefits. Most sealants are clear, so if you do get one placed on a tooth with a cavity, your dentist can continue to keep an eye on it to make sure the cavity isn’t getting larger and the sealant is doing its job.
Who should be getting sealants? They are really for everyone! However, the earlier you get them, the better. It is generally recommended that molars are sealed as soon as they appear to keep them cavity-free. This would mean sealing the first molars around age 6 and the second around age 12. Sealants have been around since the 1960s, but if you didn’t get them as a child, it isn’t too late! There’s still time to protect your teeth. Just talk with Dr. Brunacini or Dr. Karagiorgos about them during your next visit.