We believe the old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” and at Canyon Gate Dental, we are all-in on prevention. Our goal is to help every patient that walks though our doors attain a beautiful, cavity-free smile. The best way to achieve this is to never let cavities and problems start, and dental sealants are a major factor in preventing cavities in both children and adults.
Sealants are plastic coatings which are placed in the pits and grooves of back teeth (molars, and sometimes premolars) which protect the teeth against decay-causing bacteria. The chewing surfaces of permanent back teeth have deep pits and grooves that are especially susceptible to decay because they are hard to clean. Daily cleansing helps remove plaque from teeth surfaces, and fluoride can help strengthen teeth and prevent bacteria from causing decay, but sealants keep plaque from accumulating int he first place and have long been one of the most important cavity-preventing measures available. Sealants have been done since the 1970s, and have proven to be very effective in numerous studies.
Dental sealants have shown little benefit when placed in baby teeth because these teeth do not generally have deep grooves and fissures. The adult first molars normally erupt (emerge through the gums) at about age 6. When the chewing surfaces of these teeth are completely visible, and are not covered by the gums, then sealants can be placed. Adult second molars and premolars erupt from ages 11-13 and it is recommended that sealants are placed on these teeth as soon as possible after eruption. Thus, sealants are generally placed from the ages of 6-13 and they can provide a preventive benefit for a lifetime.
Although sealants are generally covered under insurance plans only for minors, adults can receive the same benefits by having sealants placed. Any tooth that has deep pits or fissures, is free decay, and doesn’t already have a restoration (filling) is an excellent candidate for dental sealants. In some cases, even wisdom teeth or baby teeth can garner great benefits from having a sealant placed. Your dentist and hygienist can help you know if any of your teeth would benefit from having sealants placed.
Dentists, hygienists, and dental assistants are able to place dental sealants. They are completely painless, require no numbing, and are one of the easiest dental procedures to execute. First a tooth is carefully dried and isolated from the oral environment, usually by placing cotton rolls and gauze next to it. Next, a chemical called an etchant is painted on the tooth to slightly roughen the tooth surface where the sealant will be placed. The etchant is allowed to function for a few seconds and then it is rinsed off, and the tooth is dried thoroughly. Finally, the sealant is placed in the form of a white liquid and then hardened by shining a blue light on it. If the sealant is too thick in some areas, slight polishing may be done at the completion of the procedure. Overall, sealants only take seconds to place and are very comfortable for patients.
In a word, yes! Although sealants are highly preventive against cavities and extremely cost-effective, they are not a magic bullet. Only the pits and fissures of teeth are protected by sealants. The next most common area to get cavities is between teeth where floss is used to remove hard-to-reach plaque and tartar. There is no substitute for regular daily hygiene practices.