Sealing Out Tooth Decay

 

What are dental sealants?

Sealants are thin, plastic coatings painted on the chewing surfaces of the molars and sometimes premolars (or bicuspids).

Sealants are put on adult molars that start to appear on kids when they are 6 years on up.

They are “installed” by dental hygienists or dentists in dentists’ offices, clinics, and sometimes in schools. Getting sealants put on is “relatively” simple and painless.  I say “relatively” because it depends on the child’s cooperation, size of the mouth opening, the size of the tongue, and the patience of the “installer.”

Sealants are painted on as a liquid and quickly hardened with a “curing light” to form a shield over the tooth… more specifically the grooves or fissures of the teeth

Who should get sealants?

Most kids should get sealants placed especially during the adolescent ages (6-12) because of the lack of oral hygiene experience and because of the poor diet exhibited by most children this age.

Any adult or teenager should have dental sealants placed if they are prone to decay or may have the potential for decay.

Do Sealants last forever?

The rule of thumb states that nothing lasts forever.  Depending on what you eat and how you eat, sealants can last up to 20 plus years.  But for the most part, the attrition from the teeth and food wear them away.

Why get sealants?

The most important reason for getting sealants is to avoid tooth decay.

If you think toothbrushing does the trick to ward off decay, you are wrong.  There isn’t a toothbrush bristle made to clean the grooves and pits of teeth (and there will never be one).

Decay starts because of bacteria (strept mutans), a tooth, and an environment.

Sealants keep the environment in the grooves of the teeth different.

Having sealants put on teeth before they decay will also save time and money in the long run by avoiding large fillings, crowns, or caps used to fix decayed teeth.  And because these dental services are quite an investment, you should consider getting sealants done especially if you like saving your money for the fun stuff in life.  (unless you think lying in a dental chair is fun)

A healthy virgin tooth is the best tooth to have however age, oral hygiene, and access to dental services are indeed factors.

If you feel you can control these factors and keep the environment rich with “anti-cavity” factors, then perhaps you don’t need sealants.  

However, placing sealants as insurance against tooth decay and major dentistry may be the best bet for most.

Why do back teeth decay so easily?

Back teeth (aka Molars) are bigger by nature.  They’re bigger to handle the force the jaws make when chewing foods.

Because they’re bigger, they have deeper pits and fissures (grooves or valleys).  These deeper areas harbor more bacteria to do their nastiness.  

Back teeth are also more difficult to clean and are often neglected when brushing, flossing, or doing any oral hygiene plan.

Should sealants be put on baby teeth?

I do feel that sealants should be placed on baby teeth because some of them have to stay in until kids are 12 or 13.  It is when these baby teeth decay where you find problems and other dilemmas.  

The question then becomes, “if baby teeth end up coming out eventually, why spend money on saving them?”

What every dentist and pediatric dentist would say is that these baby teeth are “placeholders” for the permanent adult teeth.  Think of the adult teeth as “growing in the womb” and they need to go the full term in order for things to work out well.

If you take out baby teeth either because of decay or necessity, you are asking for trouble that can last months, years, decades, or even lifetimes.

Ever seen a grown up with really “jacked-up” teeth?  Well…it is likely that they had decay as a child, had to get their baby teeth extracted, and the permanent teeth didn’t grow in well.  Yes… it is a domino effect.

Bottom line:  seal baby teeth.

The problem is, When do you do them.  Most dentists don’t like doing dentistry on really young children.  Plus dental insurance does not pay for sealants on baby teeth even though it seems logical to do it.  Which brings me to the next point..

Does insurance pay for sealants?

The short answer is, some do and some don’t.  It is up to the plan your employer selected.  Most insurance companies have different plans and it is up to the employer  to select the right one for their company.  Often times, the decision maker will select the cheapest one…  the one that doesn’t cover sealants or most services.

What if a small cavity is accidentally covered by a sealant?

The decay will not spread because it is sealed off from its food and germ supply.  But if the sealant wears off, the decay may get activated because it is now exposed to the environment.

Are sealants new?

No, sealants have been around since the 1960s. Studies by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research and others led to the development of dental sealants and showed that they are safe and
effective.

Talk to your  encinitas dentist about protecting your teeth today.  

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