If your dentist has talked about dental sealants for you or your child, you may be wondering if they are really necessary. The answer is: Yes! Recent research has shown that they do add a lot of value.
What are Dental Sealants?
Dental sealants are basically an extra layer of protection for your teeth. They are made out of a thin, resin film that bonds to the chewing surfaces and fills in the pits and grooves where bacteria like to reside. While they are not a substitute for brushing and flossing, sealants provide added protection against cavity formation.
Why Do You Need Them?
Even the most meticulous brushers and flossers cannot clean every single crevice in their teeth, especially those molars in the back used for chewing — a favorite hangout for leftover food and cavity-causing bacteria. Sealants help keep those bits of food out of the back teeth and can stop bacteria and acid from settling there.
Who Gets Them?
The earlier an individual gets sealants, the better. Sealants can be provided once the molars break through, so dentists offer them to children around age 5-7 (when first molars come in) to ages 11-14 (when 12-year-old molars come in). Adults, particularly those who are cavity-prone, may also benefit from sealants. Sealants can be applied over areas of early decay to prevent additional damage to the tooth.
Do They Work?
The short answer is: YES! A 2013 Cochrane review assessed the results of 34 studies involving sealants, with 12 of those studies comparing outcomes of sealants to no sealants. The conclusion was that sealants are effective in reducing cavities for at least four years after each application. In fact, one randomized trial of 8 to 10 year olds found that cavity rates were more than twice as high for those without sealants than for those who had sealants. A more recent review of studies published in August has come to the same conclusions.
Are They Safe?
Some people may be worried about the small amount of bisphenol A (BPA) that is contained in sealants. This chemical found in plastics has been linked to early-onset puberty, infertility and some cancers. However, according to the American Dentistry Association, an individual is exposed to more BPA by breathing air, handling a cash register receipt, using cosmetics or coming into contact with dust.
If you have questions about dental sealants, please call us at (336) 765-0904 or visit our Enlighten Dental Care website.