Cavities are a drag. If not treated quickly, they can become major problems, potentially leading to extreme oral pain and tooth loss. Plus, the process of treating a cavity with a filling or root canal doesn’t top anyone’s list of fun things to do.
Brushing and flossing regularly and seeing your dentist for regular exams and cleanings can help you prevent cavities or at least allow you to treat them in their early stages. There’s another thing you can do to protect your teeth from cavities, however: seal them. But what are dental sealants, and how can they protect your teeth?
What Are Dental Sealants and What Do They Do?
Dental sealants are coatings that a dentist paints onto the teeth to help prevent cavities. Sealants are usually applied to the molars on the chewing surfaces of the teeth. Once they are in place, sealants help to protect against 80% of cavities for two years, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Sealants protect the teeth by forming a seal between the surface of the tooth and substances that cause tooth decay. The plastic coating keeps bits of food and bacteria from adhering to the tooth’s enamel. Sealants also help to smooth the surface of the teeth, minimizing the places where food and bacteria can get stuck.
Since sealants are made from plastic, there are some concerns about their safety. They do contain BPA, but only a very small amount. The amount of BPA in dental sealants is considerably less than the amount found in the air, on the surface of receipts, or in food and drink containers.
The appearance of dental sealants depends on the type of sealant applied. Some are clear or white. Other types of sealants might have a slight color.
Who Can Get Sealants?
Kids are excellent candidates for dental sealants. Some dentists recommend sealing the molars as they come in, starting around the age of six or seven. The remaining molars can be sealed as they erupt. If a child didn’t get sealants when their molars first came in, they can still get them later in life. Adults can also get sealants to help protect their teeth.
How Do You Get Sealants?
A dentist can apply sealants to the surface of the molars or other teeth. The process is usually very quick and doesn’t cause discomfort. The first step is usually to clean the teeth to prevent bacteria from getting trapped between the tooth and the sealant. Next, the dentist will apply a gel to the top of the tooth. The gel is somewhat acidic and will create a slightly rough surface on the tooth.
The rough surface helps the sealant bond to the tooth. After rinsing away the gel, the dentist will paint the sealant onto the teeth being treated. They’ll then shine a special light onto the treated teeth to cure and harden the sealant.
How Long Do Sealants Last?
Sealants can last for a few years. They provide the most protection during the first couple of years, then provide a reduced amount of protection over subsequent years. While sealants protect against 80% of cavities during the first two years, they only protect against 50% of cavities over four years. In some cases, sealants can last for nearly a decade.
There is a chance that a sealant will fall off of the tooth or naturally wear away with time. A dentist can check your teeth or your children’s teeth at your regular appointments to verify that the sealants are still in place.
Can You Still Get Cavities With Sealants?
While sealants give you an extra layer of protection against cavities, they aren’t 100% fail-proof. They’ll only protect the areas of the teeth that they cover. You can still get cavities on areas that aren’t sealed, such as between the teeth or on the front teeth.
Even with sealants on your molars, it’s important to keep up a good oral care routine at home. Brush your teeth with a fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day. Flossing will help you clean between the teeth, reducing the risk of cavities in these areas.
It’s also important to see your dentist regularly for exams and cleanings. During a routine exam, your dentist will inspect your teeth for cavities and other issues. They’ll also check out your gums and other areas of the mouth for issues such as gum disease or oral cancer.
Dr. John Paul Gallardo is a periodontal specialist in the Miami area who also performs dental exams and routine cleanings. He is always happy to go over what you can do to prevent cavities and to keep your teeth as healthy as possible. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Gallardo in Miami, FL, call 305-547-8687 today.