Regular dental visits, flossing, and brushing are vital activities in maintaining your dental health. Still, as oral technology advances, modern preventative and treatment techniques, including dental sealants, are discovered to prevent or inhibit tooth decay. Dental sealants can also assist in preventing gum disease as well as boost your overall health. Get in touch with us at Northridge Dentist if you want to use dental sealants or other alternatives to maintain proper dental hygiene.

What are Dental Sealants?

Dental sealants are thin, clear, or white, plastic coatings that are put on the surface of your teeth. Usually, dental sealants are placed on molars' surface (back teeth) because molars suffer the most damage. Sealants can effectively separate bacteria from your molars. Consequently, preventing bacterial interaction with the fissures on your teeth surface.

Who Should Get Dental Sealants?

The most likely location for cavities to develop in the mouth is on the chewing surfaces of molars. Run your tongue over in the mouth, and you will understand why. Unlike other areas of teeth, these surfaces are rougher and are filled with small grooves called fissures and pits. The grooves trap food particles and bacteria. Toothbrush bristles cannot reach every dark, moist tiny crevice hence creating a perfect condition for tooth decay.

Due to the possibility of experiencing decay in the groves and depressions of the molars and premolars, teenagers and children are the ideal candidates for dental sealants. Moreover, you can benefit from dental sealant as an adult without fillings or decay in your teeth.

Your children can get dental sealants on their permanent premolars and molars after these teeth come in. Typically, the first permanent molars come in when a child is six years. The second permanent molars come in around age twelve and are known as twelve-year molars.

Sometimes, dental sealants can be suitable for primary teeth, especially when your child's baby teeth have deep grooves and depressions. Since baby teeth help in holding the right spacing for permanent teeth, it is essential to keep the teeth healthy.

Types of Dental Sealants

Dental sealants are applied to the occlusal surfaces of teeth to penetrate anatomic surface fissures forming a barrier on your tooth surface. There are two types of sealant materials based on the reaction that occurs as the sealants set in the patient's mouth, namely:

  • Glass ionomers. These sealants undergo an acid-base reaction as they set

  • Composite resins. These sealants set through a polymerization that is triggered by a dental curing light

Polyacid-modified resins and resin-modified glass ionomers set through a combination of both reactions, leading to sealant products with different characteristics that vary across a continuum from those of the composite resins to glass ionomers.

How Dental Sealants are Applied: Procedure

Applying dental sealant is not only painless but also a simple procedure. It takes only a few minutes for the dental expert to finish applying the dental sealant to a tooth. Here are the sealant application steps:

  1. Cleaning Your Tooth

First, your dentist should clean the tooth's surface. Otherwise, the dental sealant won't bond to the tooth properly.

The hygienist will put a tiny brush in the drill. As the dental drill rotations the brush, the hygienist will scrub the surface of the tooth and clean the grooves. The dentist can drip the dental brush in a slurry of pumice; its gritty characteristic helps the brush to clean the tooth.

In case after using the brush, the grooves still have debris, your dentist will use either of the following techniques:

  • Enameloplasty. With Enameloplasty, your dentist will use a drill to remove the debris. The amount of cutting is insignificant. Therefore, no local anesthesia is needed.

  • Air-abrasion technique. It involves using a mini-sandblaster on the tooth. Although the machine is noisy, the procedure is painless.

  1. Conditioning the Surface of Your Tooth

Once the dentist is done cleaning your tooth, they will apply etching gel over the area that the sealant will be applied. Usually, the etching gel is applied with a brush, cotton pellet, and a sponge. It can also be applied using a syringe-like applicator offered by the manufacturer.

The dentist will spread the gel over the region, which goes beyond the grooves. That way, there will be no question of all tooth parts, which result in the dental sealant being sealed.

Tooth etchant is acidic and contains approximately fifty percent of phosphoric acid. Should you put some on the tongue, it does not hurt but would taste sour or bitter. The acidic property helps in killing bacteria at the bottom of the grooves being treated.

After the etchant is well-positioned, the dentist will allow it to settle for about sixty seconds before washing it off.

  1. Evaluating the Etching Process

After cleaning the tooth, the dentist will use an air nozzle (air syringe) to blow your tooth dry before evaluating the process. The treated tooth's part will be white, dull, and frosty. It is because the etchant has dissolved minerals content from your enamel surface. The rough look is paramount in the entire sealant bonding process.

The surface of the tooth should be dry for the rest of the procedure (isolation). Should saliva contamination happen, your tooth should be re-etched. The dentist can choose to isolate your tooth by packing cotton roll, gauze, or even a rubber dam around the tooth.

A rubber dam is a sheet of latex. Your dentist will punch a hole in the tooth being treated and then fit the rubber dam over the tooth. The rubber dam separates the tooth receiving treatment from the rest of your mouth, hence making it easy for the dentist to isolate the tooth.

  1. Applying Your Sealant

While your tooth is dry, the specialist will apply the dental sealant into the tooth's grooves. They can achieve this by squirting the sealant from a syringe or using a brush.

Since the dental sealant is in liquid form, it will flow to all the groove's crannies and nooks.

Please note, the dental sealant is not meant to fill the whole chewing surface. Instead, it fills areas that have fissures and pits that can trap as well as retain debris.

  1. Curing the Dental Sealant

After the dental sealant is applied, the dentist will set it with a curing light. The curing light is a wand or flashlight device which shines blue. The light's color is essential because the sealant is put together with a catalyst that is activated by the color blue.

The liquid form sealant will set once the light shines on it.

  1. Sealant Evaluation

After your tooth's sealant is cured, the tooth is hardened. You can eat or drink immediately after the sealant placement.

However, any competent dentist will analyze the process. For instance, they will check if all grooves have been sealed adequately.

Moreover, they will check other teeth's bite against your treated tooth. The expert does not want the thickness of the sealant to affect how things normally work. To thin the dental sealant, your doctor will buff it using the dental drill. After the tooth has passed evaluation, you can eat or drink immediately without posing a problem.

Sometimes, after leaving the dentist's office, you will notice that the bite is not normal. Usually, it is because following staying open for the procedure, it is difficult for you to close in the normal way when the dentist checks your bite. Consequently, something is abnormal. Be sure to inform the dentist of this issue.

Nevertheless, often, because the sealant materials are soft, they will wear off protruding areas on their own hence restoring your bite.

How Long Does a Dental Sealant Procedure Take?

Assuming your dentist has excellent visibility and accessibility, and you are cooperative, the dental process can take approximately six minutes per tooth.

What are the Benefits of Dental Sealants?

According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, sealants reduce cavities by eighty-six percent in the first year and fifty-eight percent after four (4) years. Does that make the preventative measure worth considering? Read the benefits below before deciding:

  • Cost-effective. The cost of treating cavities is expensive, particularly if you do not have dental insurance. Putting into account that most people have decayed teeth, long-term treatment expenses can add up. More often than not, getting dental sealants is more pocket-friendly compared to seeking corrective treatment options like dental implants or crowns later.

  • It is not time-consuming. Any person who has had cavities filled will tell you that it demands to rearrange schedules and to spend a lot of time in the dentist's office. Because dental sealants reduce the risk of having cavities substantially, you spend less time worrying about dental health challenges.

  • Boosts your oral health. Tooth decay can result in more serious dental health issues. Even if you have cavities filled, the strength and health of the teeth are compromised. As with most health conditions, it is better to prevent them from developing rather than treating them. Dental sealants improve the overall, long-term health of the gums and teeth.

  • Solve simply. Another benefit of a dental sealant is the fact that it is applied quickly, is durable, and causes no discomfort or pain during and after the procedure. That is good news for patients who hate visiting a dentist.

  • Sealants protect your teeth's grooves from food particles

  • Sealants are clear or white, hence virtually invisible while eating, smiling, or talking

How Long Do Sealants Last?

Depending on the sealant material applied, the type of food you eat, and how good your home care is, dental sealants can last up to ten years. You will not have them removed. Instead, they gradually wear out over time.

While the dental sealants protect the teeth's biting surfaces, the sides and gaps between the teeth are still vulnerable to bacteria buildup from tartar and plaque. Make sure you brush all surfaces of the teeth (even with sealant). Use toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush. Brush the tops and sides the same way you would brush a tooth without a sealant.

Remember to floss the gum line and teeth daily. After flossing, use an antiseptic mouthwash to kill bacteria and rinse away food particles loosened by flossing. Do not use mouthwash to get rid of food particles near your gums in place of flossing. Flossing is the most effective strategy to break down the bacterial film.

Although sealants do not need significant changes in diet, you should avoid hard, chewy, and sticky foods. Biting on hard foods and substances such as candies, jawbreakers, ice, and opening bottles can result in sealant breakage. Sticky and chewy foods such as toffee, caramel, gummy candy, and fruit snacks, on the other hand, can stick to your sealants, pulling them off.

Moreover, attend regular dental check-ups (at least twice a year). The dentist will check the sealant for wearing or chipping. The dentist can replace your sealants if necessary.

What Happens If a Tooth Decays Under Your Dental Sealant?

Because a sealant is clear, your dentist can look at the tooth and ensure the dental sealant is functioning properly and preventing decay from spreading. Should the sealant fail to serve its role, decay will intensify, and your cavity will worsen. In this scenario, the dental expert will remove the sealant and treat the tooth using other treatment options such as fillings, crowns, or dental implants.

If the decay is very severe, the doctor will drill in your tooth and get rid of the decayed part of your tooth. And then fill the drilled-out portion of your tooth with a filling.

If your tooth is completely decomposed and cannot be saved, the dentist will remove the tooth's structure and place a dental crown around the tooth's healthy parts. You can then have a sealant placed to ensure no cavity or decay reoccurs.

Fillings Vs. Dental Sealants

Both fillings and sealants fill the grooves and offer a protective shield to your enamel. The treatment processes are similar; they both require the use of tools like ultraviolet light and a dental drill.

The main difference is the modification of your tooth. A sealant fills in the tooth's grooves. During a filling, on the other hand, a dentist fills the hole created by the decay. The decay is removed, and the cavity cleaned before placing the filling material. Then the dentist hardens the filling material using ultraviolet light. Finally, the bite is adjusted and corrected with a handpiece.

Whether you choose a sealant or filling depends on your needs and age. Your dentist should be able to help you decide.

Busting Common Misconceptions and Myths about Dental Sealants

Most people delay their opportunity of getting dental sealants despite the numerous benefits the procedure offers. Maybe, the hesitation is as a result of the myths and misconceptions about the treatment. Our dental experts believe that every person should protect their dental health against the effects of cavities. Our goal is to burst the following common misconceptions linked to dental sealants as a way of encouraging you to consider the treatment:

  • A dental sealant is a new treatment option. Most people are not aware of dental sealants. However, that is not because the treatment is new. Dental specialists began applying them to teeth in the 1960s. Additionally, a lot of studies have confirmed the treatment is effective and safe.

  • Dental sealants are for children. Most people misguidedly think that a dental cavity is a childhood problem and feel that a sealant is for children. Well, any person whose teeth have deep grooves is an ideal candidate for sealants.

  • Sealants are painful. Another common myth held by patients with dental phobia is that sealants are painful. However, the procedure is simple, and you will not feel any pain as the dentist applies the sealants to the teeth.

  • A sealant looks awkward on your teeth. A dentist will apply a sealant directly to your enamel, where the coating bonds instantly to your tooth and hardens. Moreover, sealants are invisible. That means your smile's total aesthetics are preserved.

  • Sealants are not pocket-friendly. Typically, cavities affect economically-disadvantaged persons compared to the rich. A dental sealant can assist in bridging this disparity. Applying dental sealants is an effective and affordable method to prevent decay. It also saves time and money, often spent treating teeth with cavities.

Tooth Sealants Cost and Insurance

Unlike other treatment options like fillings, the cost of sealing teeth is calculated on a per-tooth basis, irrespective of how many sides or locations require treatment. Also, a sealant costs the same, notwithstanding it is placed on a permanent or baby tooth.

The average cost of a sealant ranges from thirty dollars to forty dollars per tooth. Whatever the cost, it is more cost-effective than having a root canal, crown, or filling later.

If your baby has a Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) or Medicaid, all oral care they need will be offered free of charge. California is one of the states that covers tooth sealants for adults.

You also talk to your dental expert about alternative ways to finance the sealants.

As previously mentioned, the cost of sealants per tooth is between thirty dollars and forty dollars if you do not have insurance. Every doctor is free to set his/her rates, and a lot is dependent on their business overheads and locations.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Should You Get Sealant if Your Water has Fluoride?

Yes. Both sealants and fluoride prevent your tooth from decay but in different ways.

Sealants stop food and germs out of the grooves in your molars and premolars by offering a protective shield.

Fluoride, on the other hand, strengthens the enamel. It achieves this by replenishing minerals such as phosphate and calcium that are lost during the demineralization process when the mouth is acidic. The minerals keep the enamel strong. Consequently, preventing several dental health problems, including tooth decay. For children, fluoride hardens both the primary teeth and adult teeth even before they emerge. Today most public drinking water has fluoride added to it. You can also get fluoride by using fluoride toothpaste.

  1. What is a Cavity?

Commonly known as tooth decay, a cavity is a hole that forms in a tooth. It starts small and gradually becomes bigger if left untreated. Since most cavities are not painful in the beginning, it can be difficult to know if that issue exists. Symptoms of cavities vary depending on the seriousness of the decay. They include a visible hole in the tooth, tooth staining, tooth sensitivity, and tooth pain.

Regular dental visits can detect a cavity early.

  1. Is BPA from Dental Sealants Safe?

Most parents are worried about BPA from sealants. Bisphenol A is a resin used in different types of plastics like water bottles. The American Dental Association (ADA) has conducted a study on how BPA relates to health concerns like cardiovascular conditions, diabetes, alteration in liver enzymes, obesity, and increased risk of polycystic ovary syndrome and miscarriage. It was concluded that there is no health risk related to BPA exposure from the sealant.

Dental sealants do not have BPA, but most of them have a compound that turns in BPA in contact with saliva. BPA could be found in your saliva three (3) hours after the dental procedure is completed. A quick wipe and rinse of your completed oral work significantly lower whatever danger there could be.

Ultimately, the preventative advantages of sealant surpass the risk.

  1. Do Dental Sealants Have any Side Effects?

Apart from allergies that could exist, there are no known side effects from dental sealants.

Find a Skilled Dental Sealant Dentist Near Me

Our dental specialists at Northridge Dentist are glad to provide dental sealants that assist in preventing cavities. A sealant is a tooth-colored protective coating that protects the grooves, which naturally happen on the chewing surface of premolars and molars. The structure of these teeth makes it hard to clean, hence increasing the risk of tooth decay. Although sealants are more popular with children, adults can also benefit from them. By protecting your teeth, we can lower the risk of decay as well as the need for restorative options like dental fillings later. Learn if dental sealants are perfect for you by calling us today at 818-875-0216.