What are dental sealants and how do they work?
March 15, 2023
A simple, painless procedure offered by the dentists at Pike & Valega, DDS could help you dramatically reduce your risk of developing tooth decay. Dental sealants, which are part of the preventative dental services offered at both our dental offices in Rockville and Poolesville, can do just that.
Continue reading to learn more about dental sealants, discover how they work, and see if you are a good candidate for this type of preventative dental treatment.
What are Dental Sealants?
Think of dental sealants as a type of protective shield for your teeth. Once they are applied, they create a strong barrier that makes it difficult for harmful bacteria, acids, plaque, and food particles to reach the enamel of your teeth. This reduces your risk of developing tooth decay and experiencing dental problems, such as gum disease and cavities.
How Do Dental Sealants Work?
Some of the teeth in your mouth have bumps, pits, grooves, and depressions on their surface. This creates an uneven surface that is difficult to keep clean with regular brushing and flossing. Dental sealants even the surface out by filling in the grooves and depressions.
Without all the pits, bumps, and grooves, harmful food particles, acids, plaque, and bacteria are less likely to get trapped. The surface is also easier to clean as it eliminates the nooks and crannies that are difficult, or nearly impossible, to reach with a toothbrush.
What Do Dental Sealants Look Like?
Dental sealants are practically invisible. In fact, after application, it is almost impossible to tell which teeth have dental sealants and which ones don’t.
You aren’t able to see dental sealants because they are made out of plastic resin. Plastic resin easily blends in with your natural teeth because it is white in color.
Do All Teeth Need Dental Sealants?
Dental sealants are designed to provide protection for teeth which have multiple grooves, pits, and depressions that create an uneven surface. The teeth in the front of your mouth are relatively smooth and therefore do not need the extra protection from a dental sealant. However, the teeth in the back of your mouth, the premolars and molars, do need this protection.
Who is a Good Candidate for Dental Sealants?
Dental sealants are commonly thought of as a treatment that is only for children and young adults. However, anyone, regardless of age, could benefit from dental sealants as long as they are a good candidate for this treatment.
A good candidate for dental sealants is:
- Someone who has good oral health – teeth and gums should be healthy
- Someone who has not had any previous treatments, such as fillings
Dr. D. Timothy Pike and Dr. Margaret A. Valega can help you determine if you are a good candidate for dental sealants.
Why are Dental Sealants Applied to Only Healthy Teeth?
Dental sealants are applied to healthy teeth because they are a preventative procedure. This means they are designed to prevent problems, not treat them. If a tooth has a cavity or is surrounded by gum disease, a dental sealant will not treat the problem. Without treatment, the problem will only get worse.
Another reason teeth need to be healthy is because dental sealants create a protective barrier around the tooth. If a sealant is applied when tooth decay is present, it will become trapped under the seal. The trapped tooth decay continues to grow and spread, leading to other more serious problems such as cavities, tooth loss, or infection.
Before placing dental sealants, our dental team conducts a thorough oral examination to make sure the teeth are healthy. Once it is determined the teeth are healthy and no decay is present, our dental team can proceed with the application process.
The Dental Sealant Application Process
The entire process of applying dental sealants is quick and painless. In fact, it takes only a few minutes to complete.
The following is a look at what happens during the dental sealant application process:
- Teeth are thoroughly cleaned – Our dental team will thoroughly clean the teeth so no food particles or bacteria accidently get trapped under the sealant.
- Teeth are dried
- A protective covering is placed around the teeth to keep them dry until the sealant can be applied
- A harmless acid solution is placed on the chewing surface – This helps roughen up the surface of the teeth making it easier for the sealants to bond to the teeth.
- Teeth are then cleaned, rinsed and dried
- The dental sealant, which comes in a thin liquid form, is painted onto the surface of the teeth
- Dental sealant will harden – Dental sealants may naturally harden just by waiting or a special light may be used to help speed up the hardening process
How Long Do Dental Sealants Last?
Dental sealants are not permanent. Over time, they will start to wear away and need to be replaced.
On average, dental sealants can provide maximum protection from tooth decay for at least 5 years. However, there are some cases where dental sealants last for over 10 years. Practicing a good oral hygiene routine and scheduling regular exams/professional cleanings can help you prolong the life of your dental sealants.
To make sure you are getting maximum protection from your dental sealants, our dental team will inspect them as part of your routine hygiene examination. If we notice the sealants are worn, chipped or damaged, we may recommend having them reapplied.
Request an Appointment to See if Dental Sealants are Right for You
We encourage anyone interested in dental sealants to call our office and request an appointment. Our dental team will gladly help arrange an appointment for a hygiene exam and professional cleaning. During this time, you can inquire about dental sealants.
To request an appointment, call our office or fill out our “request an appointment” form. We look forward to meeting with you and welcoming you to our dental family.