what are dental sealants - savina dental clinics malta and gozo

Dental sealants are protective plastic barriers that protect your teeth from decay. Dentists place these thin and comfortable plastic films on the biting surface of your teeth as a protective measure. These sealants are best suited for the molars and pre-molars and for pits in the upper lateral incisors.

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Causes of tooth decay

No matter how many times you brush or floss your teeth, the chances are that you are not as thorough as you would expect. You may not reach and clean all the nooks and crannies.

The accumulation of food particles and bacteria in these hard-to-access areas may lead to teeth decay.

The biting (occlusal) surface of molars is one of the places that are difficult to clean properly due to the fissure pattern they have. Therefore, bacteria and food leftovers can settle on such surfaces unperturbed. In the long run, this food debris and bacteria lead to tooth decay.

Actual tooth decay occurs when plaque accumulates on your teeth. What happens is that the plaque produces acid. And the acid erodes the enamel. When the problem is not addressed, the acid may cause dental caries. This a dental problem that’s much harder to address.

Some of the symptoms of dental decay include sensitive teeth, brown or black spots on the teeth, toothache, to name a few. It is a dental issue that can affect anyone and preventative measures such as dental sealants may go a long way to avoid pain and the need for treatment.

Dental sealants candidates

Although adults could also benefit from dental sealants, they work incredibly well for children. This is mainly because their teeth are newly grown and more susceptible to cavities.

The CDC recommends sealants as a protective measure to protect your child’s teeth from decay. Reports from the CDC show that only 43% of children aged between 6 and 11 get dental sealants. About 20% of children aged 5-11 have got at least one tooth with untreated dental decay. Additionally, 13% of adolescents also have an untreated decayed tooth. Unfortunately,  25% of children that come from low-income families are two times as likely to get tooth decay. This is in comparison to only 11 % of children who come from higher-income homes.

When to put dental sealants on your child’s teeth

The only time you can put dental sealants on your child’s teeth is when the permanent teeth come in. According to dental experts, age 6 to 14 is the cavity prone stage. Therefore, it is the right age for children to have dental sealants for maximum protection from cavities.

Dental sealants for adults

It is less common for dentists to recommend dental sealants for adults. Nonetheless, it happens in some unique circumstances. For instance, when an adult seems to have a high risk for caries, a dentist may advocate for dental sealants as a protective measure.

Dental sealants application procedure

The dental sealant application procedure is quite straightforward. The dentist or hygienist begins by cleaning the surface of the tooth thoroughly. Then they rinse the tooth to get rid of any residue from the cleaning agents. The tooth is then carefully dried.

The dentist or hygienist proceeds to apply a gel or acidic solution on the grooves and pits on the tooth surface. The solution is then washed away using water and the dentist once again dries the surface of the tooth. The objective of this cleaning process and polishing is to get rid of any bacteria or food particles. What follows is the careful application of a bonding agent followed by the sealant on the surface. The latter is either hardened using a special curing light or left to harden on its own.

The best part is that sealants can stay intact for up to ten years. In the case of the sealants chipping, the dentist can re-do them and keep them in pristine condition.

The pros and cons of dental sealants

Pros

  • Their application procedure is not only painless but quick and local anaesthetic is not required.
  • They help to prevent tooth decay
  • They immensely improve the overall dental hygiene
  • It is cheaper to get dental sealants than fillings

Cons

  • They may cover up dental decay and make it worse
  • They may not be as durable as you would probably hope for
  • Dental sealants are not applicable on teeth with fillings
  • They are not suitable for everyone

Dental sealants alternatives

Dental sealants are not always the only way to prevent tooth decay. There are other alternative measures that can work equally well. For example, fluoride works as a shield against tooth decay. Using toothpaste with fluoride as well as drinking fluoridated water can undoubtedly keep tooth decay at bay. Dental experts argue that fluoride repairs small patches of decay before they turn into huge and uncontainable cavities.

Do sealants make teeth feel different?

It is easy to think that dental sealants may feel like something foreign in your mouth. However, sealants are thin plastics and you can rest assured that they will not affect your bite. But since a patient isn’t used to having these plastics, it’s normal to feel a slight change. The discomfort will however go away after a few hours or days of chewing and the patient ceases to feel any kind of bulkiness on their teeth.

How long do sealants last?

With proper dental care and hygiene, dental sealants can protect teeth from cavities and decay for up to ten years. However, you will need regular dental check-ups. And if the sealant chips, the dentist will have to re-do it.

The truth is that preventing tooth decay is much better than treating it. That said it is important to honour your dentist appointments each year. You also need to remember that a healthy mouth starts at home.

Ensure that you and your loved ones are brushing and flossing twice a day. And if you are still wary of tooth decay, especially among the young ones, get them dental sealants. This will prevent them from developing cavities at a young age.

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Savina Clinic – Dental & Implantology Centres are friendly, state-of-the-art practices in Malta and Gozo dedicated to comprehensive quality dental care. Savina Dental is an innovative dental practice in Malta and prides itself on the high-quality customer service, low waiting room times, attention to detail and the advanced dental technology at their disposal.

Joseph Xuereb
Principal Dental Surgeon & Owner of Savina Dental Clinics, Dr Joseph Xuereb BChD (Hons), MFGDP(UK), MGDS RCS(Eng), FFGDP RCS(UK), FICD is a general dental practitioner with a special interest in Implant and Restorative Dentistry. Dr Joseph & the teams' full biographical information can be found here.