What are dental sealants?
Sealants are thin, plastic coatings painted on the chewingsurfaces of the back teeth.
Sealants are put on in dentists' offices, clinics, and sometimesin schools. Getting sealants put on is simple and painless.Sealants are painted on as a liquid and quickly harden to form ashield over the tooth.
How are sealants put on?
1. The tooth is cleaned.
2. The tooth is dried, and cotton is put around the tooth soit stays dry.
3. A solution is put on the tooth that makes the surface alittle rough. (It is easier for the sealant to stick to a slightlyrough surface.)
4. The tooth is rinsed and dried. Then new cotton is put aroundthe tooth so it stays dry.
5. The sealant is applied in liquid form and hardens in a fewseconds.
6. The sealant is in place.
Why get sealants?
The most important reason for getting sealants is to avoidtooth decay.
Fluoride in toothpaste and in drinking water protects the smoothsurfaces of teeth but back teeth need extra protection. Sealantscover the chewing surfaces of the back teeth and keep out germs andfood.
Having sealants put on teeth before they decay will also savetime and money in the long run by avoiding fillings, crowns, orcaps used to fix decayed teeth.
What causes tooth decay?
Germs in the mouth use the sugar in food to make acids. Overtime, the acids can make a cavity in the tooth.
Of course a healthy tooth is the best tooth. So it is importantto prevent decay. That's why sealants are so important.
Why do back teeth decay so easily?
The chewing surfaces of back teeth are rough and unevenbecause they have small pits and grooves. Food and germs can getstuck in the pits and grooves and stay there a long time becausetoothbrush bristles cannot brush them away.
Who should get sealants?
Children should get sealants on their permanent molars assoon as the teeth come in -- before decay attacks the teeth.
The first permanent molars -- called "6 year molars" -- come inbetween the ages of 5 and 7.
The second permanent molars -- "12 year molars" -- come in whena child is between 11 and 14 years old.
Other teeth with pits and grooves also might need to besealed.
Teenagers and young adults who are prone to decay may also needsealants.
Should sealants be put on baby teeth?
Your dentist might think it is a good idea, especially ifyour child's baby teeth have deep pits and grooves.
Baby teeth save space for permanent teeth. It is important tokeep baby teeth healthy so they don't fall out early.
Does insurance pay for sealants?
Some health insurance programs pay for sealants. Check withyour state Medicaid program or your insurance company fordetails.
How long do sealants last?
Sealants can last up to 10 years. But they need to be checkedat regular dental check-ups to make sure they are not chipped orworn away. The dentist or dental hygienist can repair sealants byadding more sealant material.
What if a small cavity is accidentally covered by asealant?
The decay will not spread, because it is sealed off from itsfood and germ supply.
Are sealants new?
No, sealants have been around since the 1960s. Studies by theNational Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research and othersled to the development of dental sealants and showed that they aresafe and effective.
But many people still do not know about sealants. Aboutone-third of children in the United States have sealants on theirteeth.
Besides sealants, are there other ways to prevent toothdecay?
Yes. Using fluoride toothpaste and drinking fluoridated watercan help protect teeth from decay.
Water is fluoridated in about two-thirds of cities and towns inthe United States. If your water is not fluoridated or if yourchildren's teeth need more fluoride to stay healthy, a dentist canprescribe it in the form of a gel, mouthrinse, or tablet.
Fluoride is the best defense against tooth decay!
- makes teeth more resistant to decay
- repairs tiny areas of decay before they become big cavities
- makes germs in the mouth less able to cause decay
Fluoride helps the smooth surfaces of the teeth the most. It isless effective on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth. Regularbrushing -- with fluoride toothpaste -- also helps prevent toothdecay.
Sealants and fluoride together can prevent almost all toothdecay.
How can I get dental sealants for my children?
Talk to your dentist, state or local dental society, orhealth department. Sometimes sealants are put on at school. Checkwith your school about whether it has a sealant program.