This is one of the most common phrases in any dental office, especially for children and teens. But what is a dental sealant, why should you get one, and what is the difference between a sealant and a filling?
We know you have questions, so we have answers. The following are some of the most common questions we receive about dental sealants and answers that hopefully help explain why they are such a valuable tool in the fight for your dental health.
Q: What is a Dental Sealant?
A: You and your dentist try to protect your teeth from cavities and decay. But even if you brush, floss, and visit Dr. Chen once or twice a year, there are still a few areas of your teeth that are prone to problems – particularly in children and teens that may not have established the best dental hygiene habits. Many adults get sealants as well just to offer extra protection on the common areas prone to cavities.
These areas are the grooves, fissures, and depressions in the molars and premolars. Germs, bacteria, and food can easily get stuck in the grooves of the teeth and may not respond as well to brushing. Sealants cover these grooves with a durable material that prevents these harmful agents from getting stuck and damaging the teeth.
Q: What is the Dental Sealant Material?
A: There is more than one type of dental sealant material that dentists may choose from. These include:
- Composite Resin Sealants
- Polyacid Modified Resin Sealants
- Resin Modified Glass Ionomer Sealants
- Glass Ionomer Sealants
Dr. Chen prefers composite resin sealants, as these tend to be more reliable for long-term use.
Q: How Long Do Sealants Last?
A: Dental sealants can provide protection for many years. Routine dental visits can ensure that your sealants are still in good condition. When there is wear and tear, adding more sealant material can extend the lifespan of the sealant.
Q: What is the Difference Between a Filling and a Sealant?
A: One is for treatment, the other is for prevention. If you already have a cavity, the role of a dental filling is to refill the lost tooth enamel and restore the shape and function of the tooth. Dental sealants, on the other hand, are used to prevent these dental caries from occurring in the first place by sealing and protecting the place they most commonly occur.
Q: Will My Dental Insurance Help Me With Dental Sealants?
A: Sealants are optional, but often recommended. The ADA supports the use of dental sealants and they are a commonly covered benefit of insurance companies for children. Research into dental science has found that sealants are extremely effective at preventing cavities, and thus preferred by insurance companies when compared to, say, the cost of a cavity, root canal, or lost tooth. Check with your insurance policy for age limitations since they vary.
Q: Can Dental Sealants Fall Out?
A: Dental sealants will wear away over time or even become damaged. Although Sealant material is extremely strong, it can become damaged by certain foods you chew and bite on or tooth “clenching and grinding” habits. Hard items like chewing on ice cubes or hard foods like corn nuts and hard candies can all damage sealants. If they do fall out, not to worry – they can be refreshed with a re-application of sealant.
Q: Why Are Dental Sealants Only Used in the Molars and Premolars?
A: The molars are where the most fissures and deepest grooves are found in the teeth. Premolars can also have deep fissures. That makes them the most likely place for cavities to form because of the way food and bacteria collect into those areas. Because the fissures can be smaller than the bristles of your tooth brush it also becomes harder for you to remove the bacteria that causes cavities.
Q: How Safe Are Sealants?
A: Very. There are no known adverse reactions of using sealants and the American Dental Association has taken a strong “pro” stand on the usage of this material for cavity prevention.
Q: How Painful is the Procedure?
A: Not at all. Remember, sealants are placed on healthy teeth and sometimes stained grooves BEFORE a painful cavity forms. They require no drilling, cutting, or filling of sensitive decay. It’s uncommon to feel any pain during a sealant procedure. But if you’re nervous, we do have sedation dentistry options for select patients.
Any Other Questions? Ask Dr. Chen
We know that any time you or your child needs a dental procedure completed you are likely to have questions. Let us know by contacting us at any time via phone, form, or Facebook. We’ll always do our best to answer them as quickly as possible. And who knows! If you ask a question we have not already answered, maybe we’ll even turn it into a blog post.