Dental sealants are resin restorations used to seal and protect teeth from decay.
Dental Sealants and Tooth Decay
Dental sealants are a quick, painless, and inexpensive way to keep the biting surfaces of posterior teeth free from caries. Sealants are designed to protect the teeth’s deep groves from decay. Treatment consists of applying a resin or a plastic material on the biting surfaces of teeth.
Let’s discuss in more detail the process of tooth decay in the grooves of the back teeth. Bacteria colonize the small grooves found on the biting surfaces of teeth. During chewing small food particles are forced into the grooves. This provides a constant source of energy for bacteria. One of the byproducts of bacterial metabolism is acid. Over time the acid will slowly dissolve the outer enamel shell. Once the bacteria and the acid make it to the dentin, the inner portion of the tooth, the cavity can grow exponentially faster. Sealing the grooves soon after tooth eruption will minimize bacterial exposure and potential damage exhibited by the tooth.
It is important to stress that children will still have to brush and floss their teeth and have their teeth cleaned and examined every six months. Also, sealants will not protect teeth from interproximal decay, or decay commonly found between teeth. However, they are very effective at eliminating decay from the biting surfaces of teeth. Because dental sealants are applied to high stress areas of the teeth, they usually will need to be reapplied every 3-5 years. Even more frequently for children who grind or clench their teeth.
Dental sealants are considered preventative and usually covered by dental insurance for patients up to a designated age. Sealants are inexpensive as compared to the cost of fillings. They are a great preventative option and a good aid for maintaining long-term oral health.