Molars and premolars are the chewing teeth. They come out last and lie at the back end of the jaws. Since their function is to chew and crush, their mating surfaces are broad and uneven: i.e., they have cusps, fissures, and pits. These contours allow food stagnation and plaque development, and make these teeth more vulnerable to decay than other teeth.
Modern-day diets, and the junk food so well liked by children, have increased this danger. These foods contain large amounts of refined sugar. This sugar can be converted by germs into acids, which in turn act on the enamel (hard, shiny external covering) of the teeth and erode them. Caries and other dental disease may result.
Posterior teeth are also the hardest ones to clean and repair because of the more restricted access. Hence, it is best to try and obviate any possibility of disease of the back teeth. In addition to following regular hygienic practices, application of sealants to the back teeth can reduce this possibility.
Other Benefits of Dental Sealants
Not only do dental sealants protect the back teeth against disease, they have other indirect benefits also. A major benefit is reduced cost of dental care. Further, if a fluoride containing sealant is applied over demineralized enamel, it can cause the enamel to gradually re-mineralize, and hence, prevent further decay.
What Are Dental Sealants?
Dental sealants are thin, plastic-like coatings applied to the (back) teeth. Their chemical nature is such that they can withstand the acid formed by germs in the mouth. Thus, they pose a beneficial barrier between the harmful acid and the enamel of the teeth.
Sealants should be applied as soon as the (back) teeth have fully grown. The idea is to apply sealants before any decay sets in. This means sealants should be applied early, say, at an age between seven and fourteen years. It is to be noted that there is no use applying sealant to a tooth which has already developed a cavity.
Some Concerns about Tooth Sealants
The first important concern of the parents is the decision whether to apply sealants to teeth of a child or not. The initial cost of applying sealants is high, and not all insurance plans will cover sealants. However, sealants applied once can have a life of up to ten years. This can be weighed against the possible cost of dental treatment over these years. Of course, if any wear and tear is noticed, the sealants can be reapplied.
Another point to note is that the sealants protect only the chewing surfaces of the teeth. Hence, the remaining surfaces of the teeth must still be given regular brushing and flossing.
It has been argued that chemical composition of the sealant may pose a health risk. Bisphenol-A, normally called BPA, is a constituent of some dental sealants. There are fears that BPA in the sealants can adversely affect the brain, behavior, and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children, in addition to causing unnatural estrogen production. However, BPA is also used in tins for food, and FDA has expressly determined that the levels of BPA leeching in are below the harmful level. Furthermore, research has shown that the currently used dental sealants pose minimal estrogenic effects, and can be safely used.
When to Apply?
A decision whether to apply or not should be made in consultation with the dentist. If the ‘pit’ in the molars are shallow, the chance of trapping food particles on the chewing surfaces are less, and sealants may not be recommended. If needed, the dentist will decide at what age they are to be applied. In some cases, sealants may be recommended even for adults.
With the upcoming holidays, getting dental sealants is a great way to protect your teeth and enjoy all those holiday goodies with peace of mind. The staff at our Arlington office will be happy to schedule it for you, so call us today at (817) 261-2747.