What are dental sealants?
Back teeth quite often have deep fissures or grooves in them that are difficult to clean and therefore are susceptible to decay. Dental sealants are thin coatings of tooth-coloured filling material that are applied to these fissures or grooves. By covering the grooves, it effectively seals and protects them from decay.
Dental sealant suitability
Dental sealants are usually placed in adult molars and premolars once they have erupted sufficiently. In most children, first molars appear between the ages of 6 and 7, premolars between 10 and 12; and the second molars usually erupt between 11 to 13.
Sealants are sometimes recommended in baby teeth if a child is deemed a high risk of developing tooth decay. They can also be placed in teenagers and adults who are prone to tooth decay.
Ask your dentist if you or your child is a suitable candidate for dental sealants.
Dental sealants are applied by a qualified dentist, oral health therapist or hygienist. Once they have determined you or your child is a suitable candidate for dental sealants, they will begin treatment.
Firstly, they will thoroughly clean and dry the tooth surface where the dental sealant is to be applied. Then, they will place the filling material into the tooth fissure or groove. Finally, a special light will be used to set the material.
After treatment, the tooth’s surface will be protected from decay and will feel smooth to touch. The surface will also be easier to clean as the fissure/s will be sealed.
How long do dental sealants last?
Dental sealants can last up to 10 years if they are looked after properly. This means, brushing twice daily for 2 minutes, flossing and visiting the dentist every 6 months.
Over time, dental sealants will wear down and may also chip. If required, the dentist can repair a dental sealant by applying more sealant material into the tooth.
Benefits of dental sealants
By covering the chewing surface of a tooth, dental sealants help to protect fissures from decay. Prevention against decay can also help to reduce the time and cost of dental treatment later down the track.
Dental sealants are also pain-free and do not require numbing or drilling. As well, sealants blend in with the surrounding teeth. This means, they are not visible to the untrained eye.
Your child’s teeth are often more difficult to clean when they are partially erupted and your child may also lack the dexterity to brush them adequately. As well, sugar intake at this age can be difficult to monitor, increasing the risk of tooth decay. Dental sealants, therefore, can act as an additional line of defence against decay.
There is no doubt good oral health is extremely important to our overall health. The longer you can prevent issues developing such as tooth decay, the less likely your health and lifestyle will be impacted.
Dental sealants vs fillings
Fillings are used to replace missing tooth structure when decay has already formed and has been drilled out of a tooth. Dental sealants on the other hand are used as a preventative measure and are applied before decay has had a chance to form.
Because fillings are generally much larger than sealants, they are made from stronger materials such as reinforced composite resin, ceramic or gold. Dental sealants don’t need to be strong but instead must be able to adapt well into small crevices. Therefore, an ideal sealant material has low levels of reinforcement such as flowable composite resin or glass ionomer cement.
The dental sealant treatment process is rather straighthood, requiring very little preparation as outlined above. The tooth filling treatment process however is more complex and may require local anaesthetic, drilling/re-shaping of the tooth and a number of placement and finishing steps before the filling is complete.
Both treatments are used in completely different situations and should not be considered interchangeable.
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Our dentists are highly trained in children’s dentistry and will do their best to make your visit as pleasant as possible. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions.
If you would like to know if you or your child is suitable for dental sealants, book an appointment online today!
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