Dental Sealants: Everything You Need to Know

Dental sealants are a protective coating for your teeth. Read on to learn how this procedure can help prevent cavities for a lifetime.

April 7, 2022
Dental Sealants: Everything You Need to Know

You probably know the importance of brushing (with a toothbrush and toothpaste!) and flossing your pearly white teeth every day. And while we sure hope you’re doing your part to prevent cavities and tooth decay, sometimes debris and food particles can slip through the cracks — both literally and metaphorically!

Even when you floss and brush properly and frequently, it can be difficult to get everything. However, there’s another safety net that you can use to keep your teeth clean, improve your dental health, oral hygiene, and avoid fewer check-ups and dental treatment. 

Dental sealants are a dental procedure that adds an extra layer of protection and defense to pick up some of the slack that brushing and flossing might miss. Here’s everything you need to know about this procedure.

What Are Dental Sealants?

Many people wear mouthguards at night to protect their teeth from damage from clenching or grinding. However, dental sealants are a different type of protection for your teeth that are more focused on preventing cavities rather than physical damage.

Sealants are thin, protective plastic coatings that adhere to the chewing surface of your teeth. The sealant material can also be made of things besides plastic, but that is the most common material. They may stop cavities from forming, or even reverse the early stages of decay to prevent them from becoming a cavity on the surface of the tooth. They also create smooth surfaces on your teeth.

Sealants are not a physical barrier that you place over your teeth in the same way as invisible aligners, mouthguards, or retainers. Instead, these are painted onto the surface of your teeth by a dental professional and use a curing light.

How Are Sealants Applied?

A major benefit of wearing dental sealants is that the procedure is quick and painless. First, your dentist will clean and dry your tooth before placing an acid solution over top. This essentially “sands down” your tooth’s surface to make a stronger chemical bond form between the sealant and the surface of your tooth.

Then, your dentist will rinse off the gel and dry your tooth. The sealant is then painted over the grooves and surfaces of your teeth. Finally, a special blue light is used to react with the chemical and cause the sealant to harden on the surface of your permanent teeth.

How Do Sealants Work?

When you eat certain foods, especially acidic foods like candy, coffee, or starches, these chemicals sit on the surface of your teeth and create acids which erode your tooth’s enamel. The enamel is the hard outer covering of your teeth that protects them from cavities.

Over time, if these acids are left on your teeth, they can create tiny holes called cavities, which can lead to pain, discomfort, or even infection if left untreated.

Sealants are sort of like a shield for your teeth. These work by keeping bits of food or drink from adhering to the surface of your tooth, reducing the risk of cavity development down the road. But like a shield, they aren’t entirely 100% reliable, so brushing and flossing with fluoride toothpaste is still necessary.

How Long Do Dental Sealants Last?

Sealants are such a thin layer of protection, so it’s normal to think that you need to get a replacement sealant every few months. However, dental sealants have been shown to last for up to nine years after placement, especially if you continue to take regular care of your teeth and see a dental hygienist regularly.

With that said, they can fall off without you even noticing. This emphasizes the importance of regular dental appointments. Missing sealants are easy to replace, but keep in mind that a tooth without a sealant will now become more susceptible to cavities and decay.

What Is the Cost of Dental Sealants?

Dental sealants are a super effective way to protect your teeth. Their only downfall is the price. Dental sealants can run anywhere between $30 and $60 per tooth. So if you wanted to fill your entire mouth of 32 permanent adult teeth, you’d be spending upwards of $1,920. 

With that said, this price will vary based on your insurance. If you have dental insurance, these treatments are often covered because they are considered preventative treatments to reduce your risk of developing cavities and other dental abnormalities.

However, just because you don’t have insurance doesn’t mean you need to break the bank for effective dental care. Flossy is a membership-based dental service that lets you pay as you go for dental care. That means you’re only paying for the services you receive — no membership fees or monthly premiums.

Plus, our transparent pricing lets you know what you’ll be paying before you meet with one of your vigorously vetted dental professionals. We can offer dental sealants for up to 50% off the national average without insurance. Find a dentist near you to take your smile to the next level.

Are Dental Sealants Effective?

Dental sealants claim to prevent cavities and enhance the health of your teeth. But is it too good to be true? The research trends in favor of dental sealants as an effective way to cut back on cavities.

The CDC released a 2016 report detailing the importance of dental sealants in school-aged children, finding that they reduce the risk of cavities by 80% in molars (your back teeth) while also finding that children without sealants are three times more likely to get a cavity than those with sealants.

Additionally, the American Academy of Pediatrics has reported that dental sealants are highly effective for reducing cavities, but they are underutilized in practice.

Are Dental Sealants Safe?

Dental sealants often contain a substance called BPA, or bisphenol-A. This is widely used in dental resins, but there has been a lot of controversy surrounding the safety of this chemical in commercial products.

It is true that exposure to BPA is a concern because it can have possible health effects, especially in infants or children. It’s been found that exposure to BPA can affect the brain and prostate glands, which can lead to behavior changes. Additionally, research suggests a possible link between BPA and increased blood pressure or cardiovascular disease.

However, research has found that the BPA used in dental sealants does not seem to affect human health. Small amounts of BPA may leach from dental sealants immediately after application, but in a 2012 study, no BPA was found in blood samples, indicating that there is no detectable exposure from dental sealants.

Additionally, the American Dental Association has found that you get exposed to more BPA by simply touching a receipt in comparison to getting dental sealants. Shockingly, breathing air exposes you to more than 100 times the BPA that you’d find in dental sealants.

Who Can Get Dental Sealants?

Both children and adults can get sealants, though many dentists feel that the earlier you get them – the better. Your first molars pop through your gum line at age six, and then your second molars come in around age 12. Getting sealants right away can provide them with maximum protection from cavities and other damage. Therefore, this is a procedure you can have done on baby teeth or your child’s teeth.

How To Protect Your Teeth From Cavities

Even if you get dental sealants, you can still get cavities. It is important to take the necessary steps to avoid getting cavities so you can avoid future illness. Here are some tips and tricks to keep your teeth sparkling and healthy.

Brush and Floss

You’ve probably heard this drilled into your brain for years, but we can’t overemphasize the importance of brushing and flossing twice a day. Brushing your teeth works to remove the acids that accrue on your teeth throughout the day, which diminishes the risk of cavities and tooth decay.

While most people are good with brushing, it’s equally important to floss just as much. Flossing removes food and acid particles from in between your teeth, which often gets missed by brushing alone.

Use Fluoride

Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral used in dental products that can strengthen enamel and prevent cavities. Most mouthwash contains fluoride, and these can reduce plaque, neutralize acidity, soothe canker sores, and even provide dry mouth relief.

Use mouthwash after brushing and flossing to add another layer of protection to prevent tooth decay. These will also help to freshen your breath and provide a nice soothing sensation to your whole mouth.

Limit Certain Foods

Foods that are highly acidic tend to be the most abrasive on teeth, as the chemicals can wear down your tooth enamel. Pickles, coffee, lemons, strawberries, candies, and oranges are a few examples of foods that can enhance your risk of decay, so trying to limit them when you can might be useful.

There are also some foods that might be able to strengthen the enamel and reduce your risk of cavity development. These are things like water, dairy products, crunchy green vegetables, meats and fatty fish, as well as apples and pears.

Visit Your Dentist Regularly

Seeing an oral hygienist regularly for a cleaning is essential for a number of reasons, but one of the main reasons is that the early signs of a cavity can be reversed if it is caught early enough. Visiting your dentist every six months can usually allow them to implement tools to prevent cavities from worsening.

Plus, they can provide you with a detailed tooth cleaning that will help to prevent decay and disease down the road. This includes scraping off tartar, which is hardened tooth plaque that can only be removed by a dental professional.

You can visit a dentist regularly, even if you don’t have insurance. Flossy can let you save up to 50% on routine cleanings and oral exams.

In Conclusion

Dental sealants are thin layers of protection that can be painted onto your tooth’s surface to protect against cavities. They adhere to the tooth to make it so that acidic foods don't eat away at the underlying enamel. They’re sort of like a shield for your teeth.

Sealants are effective and safe despite controversy surrounding BPA usage, and anyone from children to adults can get them. Not to mention, you can enhance their effectiveness through frequent brushing and flossing to keep your teeth as pristine as they were when they first came in.

Sources:

Dental Sealant FAQs | School-based Dental Sealant Programs | Division of Oral Health | CDC

Dental Sealants Prevent Cavities - Vital Signs | CDC

Dental sealants effective but underutilized: What can pediatricians do? | AAP News | American Academy of Pediatrics

What is BPA? Should I be worried about it? | Mayo Clinic.

Bisphenol A in dental sealants and its estrogen like effect | NCBI

Sealants | American Dental Association

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