Updated: Mar 19, 2022
In today’s world of raging tooth decay, we can’t overlook dental sealants as part of our personal combat strategy. Sealants are cavity-preventing resin coatings applied to the biting surfaces of your chewing teeth to protect the deep pits and fissures that often funnel deep into the tooth.
Without being sealed, pits and fissures act as perfect catchalls for plaque-bacteria and sticky sugar – a textbook combo for tooth decay. Unfortunately, these little crevices are much smaller than the tips of your toothbrush bristles – so brushing gives you no help in cleaning them out.
Today dentists use cavity-detecting lasers to “look” into these grooves and help identify a normal groove from a decayed one. Detecting decay early, before your dentist’s instrument “sticks” into the resulting hole, means a smaller filling for a lifetime. But wouldn’t you rather avoid the cavity in the first place?
Traditionally we have worried about kids' teeth during those “cavity prone years”, so we focused our efforts on sealants on newly erupted teeth – the 6-year and 12-year molars – and then pre-molars if the child was highly susceptible to decay.
But wait, what about us adults?
It turns out those cavity-prone years go on and on, especially given the high-sugar and acid-rich foods and drinks that tempt us all. So if you didn’t get sealants as a child and/or you aren’t getting your sealants maintained by your dentist, it’s not too late. Getting your grooves sealed as an adult makes all kinds of sense.
Let’s take a look at the evidence. No matter how the research studies are grouped, (for example by material, by the duration of the study, etc.) the positive effects of sealants remain strong and consistent. In an average of six recent studies, the results showed a 74% reduction in decay rates for teeth with pits and fissures that had sealants applied versus those that did not.
Dental sealants are relatively easy and painless for your dentist or hygienist to apply. They hold up well under chewing forces, especially in the deep crevices where they are most effective. Sealants may last several years before a reapplication is needed and your dentist can easily evaluate their condition at each 6 – month preventive appointment.
No one I know wants another cavity and dental sealants are just one more way to be proactive in your protection strategy. Ask your dentist to evaluate your grooves at your next appointment.