Sealants are a thin plastic coating painted in the groves of the chewing surfaces of back teeth. These groves can exist on both the primary (baby) and permanent teeth. Food tends to get caught in these groves and causes decay. By sealing these groves with plastic, we can keep food out of the groves and prevent decay.
Sealants can last of to 10 years, however, 2-4 years is a more realistic life span. The longevity of sealant material depends on how dry the tooth was when it was placed, how hare a patient chews, if they clench their teeth, etc. In the very young patient is very difficult, if not impossible, to keep a tooth as dry as we would like when placing a sealant. We still do sealants on these patients, but realize that some of these sealents may have to be redone at a future appointment. However, the sealants will prevent decay that might form on these young patients who are also the most difficult for parents to brush or for us to treat.
There are several advantages to sealants. they do not require anesthesia, a shot; do not require drilling; decay is prevented; and the tooth is stronger with a sealant than it would be with a filling. The sealants take less time to place than fillings, are less costly and a tooth with a sealant looks normal.
Sealants have been around for along time. The early sealants did not tend to last very long. We were unsure of how well they would work and insurance companies would not cover the cost of placing sealents. It has not been shown that it is less costly to do sealants on al the teeth with deep groves than to take a chance on decay and the cost of a filling. This is true up to the age of 17 or 18. We do not know if there is a monetary advantage to continue placing sealants past the age of 18.
In short, sealants will prevent decay in primary and permanent teeth of children and adults. Some insurance companies will cover the cost of sealants on children. If we have a cooperative child the sealant should last at least 5 years. For younger children sealants are indicated, however, they may have to be redone more frequently. They are much less costly or traumatic than a filling. Back to newsletter index