Dental Care

Dental Sealant

Maybe your dentist has asked you in the past if you'd like him to apply a dental sealant to one or more of your teeth, or to your child's teeth.

You really didn't know what it was, and you turned it down at that time.

Now you'd like to know more about the process so that at your next dental visit, you can opt for this tooth preservative if your dentist thinks you'll benefit from it.

A dental sealant is a type of protective coating. 

The dentist paints it onto the chewing surfaces of the back teeth, such as premolars and molars, where the possibility of cavity formation is higher than in other areas of your teeth.

Do you know how many premolars and molars you have? 

If you look at your teeth in a mirror, you'll see the four front teeth, correctly called the incisors.  And just in case you're wondering, that's four on the top and four on the bottom; each and every tooth you can see on the top is also present on your bottom jaw. Flanking the incisors are the pointed canine teeth; you have one on each side of your incisors.   

After the canine teeth come the guys that get into more serious food chewing:  You have two premolars on each side of your mouth.  That's four on the top and four on the bottom.  And last, but certainly not least, are the molars -three on each side on the top and again on the bottom for twelve in total. 

Dental sealants are most important for your molars and premolars because their chewing surfaces are pitted with fissures and indentations.  Some of the fissures are so deep and so narrow that you cannot reach them with the bristles of your toothbrush.  All these crevices make ideal breeding grounds for bacteria, plaque, and, ultimately, decay. 

Sealants can help to protect your tooth surfaces from the destruction caused by tooth decay.  And as preventive care, dental sealants in children are the most common. 

The sealant is actually a liquid plastic product. You can expect it to last for about ten years.

It is interesting to learn about both sides of the story. There is some controversy about the subject and the associated dangers are less know to the general public. Nevertheless it is important enough to consider these aspects before proceeding.

The Dental Sealant Procedure

First, the tooth to be sealed is cleaned thoroughly.  Next, a liquid acid is applied to the tooth that's about to be sealed so that the sealant will bond with the tooth. The tooth must be very dry.

Then the sealant is applied over the grooves and crevices. If the sealant doesn't dry correctly within a minute, there will be one last step -a light source applied by the dentist to cure the sealant. It doesn't take long, there are no shots involved, and it doesn't hurt. 

Your dentist will advise you or your child to avoid food and drink for about an hour afterward.  

For a week or so, you will have the feeling that something is stuck on your tooth -because even minor changes in the shape of your teeth can seem like huge alterations.  But you will become accustomed to the new feel quickly.

Costs of Dental Sealant

The cost of having a tooth sealed is about fifty bucks. Compare that with the cost of a filling, which runs somewhere between $100-$200. When you think about a decade's protection for your child or for yourself, it's really a small price to pay. But that probably brings a couple questions to mind:

The first one concerns whether your dental insurance will cover it.  For reasons we'll get to next, most insurances do not cover dental sealants in people who have passed the early teen years.  But if you have a child 14 or under, it's likely to be covered in full. 

The next question is: Why you don't have all your teeth sealed?  The answer relates to the same reason why insurance companies don't pay for sealants in older children or adults.  Once a tooth has a cavity, it cannot be sealed.  Also, the plastic dental sealant will not bond to smooth tooth surfaces, so it is useless on your incisors or canine teeth. 

However, even if you have an incipient lesion -also known as a noncavitated lesion- you are still a candidate for dental sealant.  That means that there is evidence that a cavity is about to develop, but no cavity is yet detectable.

Teeth sealant was primarily used for children years ago, but today's improved technologies allow dentists to detect problems before they develop into cavities. That means that more and more adults make good candidates for sealants. 

If you've always maintained good oral hygiene and had few, if any cavities, you might be the person who is surprised in his adult years to hear that he has developed a cavity.  After all, there's no 100% guaranteed way of preventing them! 

And if you take a medication that tends to dry out your mouth, making you more prone to cavities even with a good dental regimen, you should ask about teeth sealants.


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