Advantages and Disadvantages of Dental Sealants
While dental sealants can be performed for patients of any age, they are usually given to children. The molars and premolars bear primary responsibility for chewing food. These teeth also have crevices where food can get stuck more easily and are more difficult to clean. Sealants are made of a resin that is painted on the teeth and fills in the crevices in the teeth to form a barrier that protects the teeth from decay-causing agents.
Sealants are a preventive that reduces the risk of cavities. As with any dental treatment, they have both advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages of dental sealants
Data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Dental Association show that children who have dental sealants develop fewer cavities than those who do not. Here are some of the many advantages of sealants.
The resin from which sealants are made is a type of plastic. Some people worry about sealants containing a synthetic compound called BPA that can be harmful to humans in large amounts. However, not all sealants contain BPA, and those that do contain only trace amounts that are well below levels known to cause harm.
Easy and painless application
Sealants start out as a liquid that the dentist paints on the teeth. The resin forms a hard bond with the tooth when it hardens. Once all the sealants are applied, the dentist uses a special curing light that hardens them within minutes.
It only takes a few minutes per tooth to apply sealants. Depending on how many teeth need the treatment, it should take about half an hour to complete. The process is painless, so there is no need to numb the mouth before the procedure.
Sealants may be transparent, or they may have a slight tooth-colored tint. In either case, they are not very noticeable in the mouth once they have been applied and have hardened. They blend in with the appearance of the other teeth and are usually applied to the back teeth, which are less visible anyway.
On average, dental sealants last about five years. There have been cases in which sealants lasted as long as 10 years. In children, this can mean many years of protection during the years that their teeth are most susceptible to cavities. Your child's dentist can evaluate the sealants during routine examinations and see how they are holding up, reapplying as necessary.
Applying dental sealants is a fairly inexpensive procedure. It is much less expensive than a filling is, and by preventing multiple fillings, sealants could save you a lot more money in the long run.
Disadvantages of sealants
For all the many advantages of sealants, there are also some downsides.
They do not last forever
While sealants can provide many years of protection, they eventually wear off, leaving teeth vulnerable to decay. However, with regular dentist visits, you can monitor their condition. There is no limit to the number of times that sealants can be applied, so once they wear out, the dentist can apply them again.
They may not be covered by insurance
Insurance policies may cover sealants for children but not for adults. There may be an exception if you are an adult with a condition that makes you especially prone to cavities. Otherwise, if you want to get sealants as an adult, you may have to pay for them out of your own pocket.
It may be too late to apply them
Generally speaking, it is not recommended to apply sealants to teeth that already have cavities or fillings. The fear is that, if a tooth already has some decay, the sealant could trap it inside. The cavity could grow and get worse underneath the sealant.
This scenario is possible but not probable. Before applying sealants, a dentist performs a thorough oral examination, typically including X-rays, to identify any cavities or tooth decay to avoid applying sealants to teeth that are already compromised.
There have been instances of parents bringing in young children to the dentist for sealants only for the dentist to tell them that the procedure has to be canceled because the children already have cavities. That is why it is so important for parents to start bringing children to the dentist as soon as their teeth start coming in and to be diligent about oral hygiene. If you are interested in getting sealants as an adult, your dentist can inform you whether you are a candidate.
Dental sealants offer many advantages, especially to children who are at greater risk for tooth decay than adults. However, there are also some disadvantages that must be taken into consideration.
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