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Dental sealants

Having a dental sealant placement procedure can help stop cavities and tooth decay from developing later on. While any procedure can be daunting, understanding what is involved can help alleviate some of the anxiety surrounding the process.

Cavities are damaged areas on your tooth’s surface. Typically, this type of decay is caused by bacteria and presents as small holes in the tooth’s enamel, possibly affecting the dentin below. Initially, a cavity may have no symptoms, however, as it progresses it can cause sensitivity and toothache.

If left untreated, the lower layers of the tooth will become affected. This leads to more severe toothache, infection, and eventually tooth loss. Cavities are very common and can affect anyone’s natural teeth at any point in their life. Often, cavities affect the chewing surfaces of the back teeth.

Prevention is always better than the cure and having a good oral hygiene routine is essential. That said, the grooves and fissures in your teeth that help grind up food can be challenging areas to clean, and food and bacteria can often get trapped here.

Dental sealants, also known as pit and fissure sealants or simply fissure sealants, are thin coatings applied to teeth to reduce the risk of cavities. They are often used in children but are helpful for anyone that has an increased chance of developing cavities.

The Benefits of Dental Sealants

Dental sealants fill the fissures of your back teeth and prevent food debris and plaque from causing decay. The benefits are:

  • Dental sealants are white or transparent making them almost invisible.
  • The procedure requires no drilling or injections.
  • The dental sealant procedure is quick.
  • Dental sealants won’t dissolve through contact with saliva.
  • Dental sealants will not cause pain or discomfort.
  • Dental sealants are made of a safe material.

The Dental Sealant Procedure

The preventive dental sealant procedure is pain-free, non-invasive, and relatively brief. It can be carried out by a dentist or a hygienist. In conjunction with the treatment, your dentist may suggest applying a fluoride varnish to further protect and strengthen your teeth.

To prepare for the procedure, the dentist will first thoroughly clean and dry the tooth to remove any bacteria from its surface. Next, a solution will be applied that makes it easier for the fissure sealant to bond with the tooth.

The sealant is then applied. Once it’s in place, the dentist will harden it using a curing light.

Caring for Dental Sealants

The protection provided by dental sealants doesn’t mean that you can neglect your regular oral hygiene routine. To care for your sealants, you should thoroughly brush your teeth twice a day using a fluoride toothpaste for maximum protection.

Dental floss can be very useful for removing plaque and debris that accumulates between your teeth, and an antibacterial mouthwash will further protect you against tooth decay and gum disease.

Dental Sealants FAQs

Asking the right questions can help minimise anxiety surrounding a dental procedure. Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about dental sealants.

What is a cavity?

A cavity is a small hole in your tooth’s enamel. Usually, when a cavity forms it is treated using a filling. Dental sealants placed prior to any decay will protect the tooth from cavities.

What causes cavities?

When you eat carbohydrates and sugars, your mouth’s natural bacteria turns them into acid. Then, as this mixes with your saliva, it forms plaque. This clings to your teeth and the acid it contains breaks down the tooth’s enamel leading to the formation of cavities.

How do sealants work?

Sealants work by stopping bacteria and food particles from getting trapped in the fissures of your molars and premolars, reducing the risk of plaque acid striking. Once in place, your dental sealant will also make it easier to clean any sealed teeth.

What are dental sealants made of?

Dental sealants can be made of plastic or composite resin similar to the material used in fillings. They can be clear or white and are usually well-matched to the colour of your teeth.

Is sealing a tooth better than filling a cavity?

Dental sealants are quick, painless, and easy to place. Any tooth that doesn’t have a cavity will be healthier and stronger than those that have untreated decay or fillings. Sealants are often a more cost-effective option than fillings.

Who can have dental sealants?

Dental sealants are beneficial to both children and adults. The earlier you have sealants, the better. Dentists recommend that children get them as their second molars start to break through at around the age of 12.

Can dental sealants be applied to existing cavities?

In areas where there are signs of early decay, dental sealants will prevent further decay. Your dentist will be able to advise whether sealants can be added to a tooth.

Will sealants affect my ability to chew?

No. Due to the way dental sealants are designed and made, they’ll fit your tooth perfectly, ensuring that all of its function is retained.

Can you see dental sealants?

No. Dental sealants are made from either a white or clear plastic that blends in well with the colour of your teeth. They are also placed onto the tops of your back teeth making them very hard to spot.

How long do dental sealants last?

Typically, dental sealants will last for between two and seven years, however, they may last even longer if they are properly cared for. Your dentist will check your dental sealants whenever you have a check-up.

If a sealant does become worn, it can be repaired or replaced.

How do I look after dental sealants?

Fissure sealants don’t require any special care. As long as you thoroughly brush your teeth twice a day and have regular check-ups with your dentist, your sealants should last for a long time.

Is getting dental sealants painful?

Not at all. Dental sealant placement requires no drills and the whole process can be carried out without the need for anaesthesia. 

How long does it take to recover after a dental sealant procedure?

Because the process involved in placing a dental sealant is non-invasive, no recovery is needed. The sealant will be immediately cured and hardened by the dentist and you’ll be able to chew and enjoy your favourite food items straight after the procedure. 

What are the risks associated with dental sealants?

The dental sealant procedure poses relatively few risks. One minor concern is that the sealant could later chip or crack without you realising it. Having regular dental check-ups will ensure that your sealants remain intact. 

Plastic sealants may contain small amounts of a chemical called bisphenol A (BPA) and it’s possible that you may be exposed to low levels of this immediately after placement. There is no evidence that suggests there are any health concerns associated with this.

How much do dental sealants cost?

If you’re paying privately for dental treatments, you can expect to pay anywhere between £15 and £60 per tooth. Prices vary based on location and the expertise of your dentist.

Can you get dental sealants on the NHS?

It is possible for children to get dental sealants free on the NHS. Adults will need to pay band 1 fees. 

Do you still need to use fluoride toothpaste even if you have dental sealants?

Yes. Dental sealants will protect the chewing surfaces of your bicuspid, premolar, and molar teeth. Fluoride is useful in fighting tooth decay across your entire mouth.

How can I manage my anxiety surrounding the dental sealant procedure?

To reduce anxieties associated with the dental sealant procedure, the first step is to find a Dental Phobia Certified dentist.  A dentist that’s experienced in looking after nervous patients will often have the listening skills and empathy needed to understand your concerns and ease your mind.

Talking through the procedure and letting your dentist know more about your specific fears will help them better tailor your experience. Many dental practices offer injection-free sedation that completely relaxes you throughout the procedure.

Other ways to help minimise dental phobia include booking your appointment for the quietest time of the day, taking a friend or family member with you to your appointment, and wearing noise-cancelling headphones throughout your treatment.

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