Enamel is the outermost protective covering of the teeth,and it protects them against demineralization and erosion. However, if highly acidic conditions persist within the oral cavity for prolonged periods, the caries causing bacteria flourish and lead to gradual loss of the protective enamel covering.This results in tooth sensitivity when taking hot or cold foods, softening, and even fracture of the teeth. Dental sealants are plastic-like polymeric materials that are applied to the teeth to serve as a substitute for the enamel portion of the teeth. Most commonly, low viscosity dental restorative composites are applied to the teeth either prophylactically, or for the treatment of existing dental caries.
On which Teeth are Sealants Applied?
Dental sealants are applied on the back, or posterior, teeth. This is because the posterior teeth possess various “pits and grooves” on their surfaces, which serve as the ideal place for food stagnation and caries development. Furthermore, these areas are difficult to clean during brushing. This type of caries are known as “pit and fissure” caries.
Advantages of Dental Sealants
The most obvious advantage of these materials, is their role against the development and progression of occlusal caries. Furthermore, when applied to sensitive teeth, they are able to reduce pain, when taking hot or cold drinks, by serving as a protective layer on the teeth.
Some patients have the habit of frequently grinding their teeth, either during the daytime or during sleep. This can result in excessive loss of natural tooth structure. If a thin layer of a dental sealant is applied over the teeth, the sealant is sacrificed instead of the natural tooth. However, the sealants do not serve as a permanent solution for tooth grinding or bruxism, and a definitive treatment such as behavioral or orthodontic therapy must be sought after.
The beneficial role of fluoride, in caries prevention, has been documented in scientific literature. As a result, manufacturers of dental restorative materials are now incorporating sufficient quantities of fluoride into dental sealants, which can effectively reduce tooth demineralization and decay. In addition, since the sealants serve a protective role, they save money by reducing the caries incidence, and the need for costly dental restorative procedures.
Patients find the initial treatment with sealers to be costly. Moreover, this procedure is not covered by most of the health insurance plans. However, once a sealer has been applied over a tooth, it can serve for up to 10-15 years; and in case the sealant is lost, another layer can be easily re-applied. It can be safely said that, although the one-time cost of the dental sealants is high, it is negligible in terms of their utility and long clinical service life.
Concerns have been raised about the potential harmful of effects of BisphenolA (BPA), that is added to the sealants. However, studies have shown that the amount of BPA in the sealers is far less than that can cause any damage. Furthermore, dental manufacturers are now producing sealers that are free of BPA.
A Final Word
Dental sealants are not indicated in all individuals. Patients with shallow pits and grooves over the occlusal surfaces of their teeth usually do not require the sealers. However, they are highly indicated in people with poor oral hygiene, or those who are at high risk of caries development. Your dentist will decide whether the application of dental sealants on your teeth will be beneficial for you or not.