How Effective Are Sealants at Preventing Cavities and Tooth Decay?

December 11, 2023

Cavities and tooth decay are common oral health issues that can cause pain, infection, and even tooth loss if left untreated. Dental sealants in , IL, offer a preventive solution by providing a protective plastic coating that seals the chewing surfaces of back teeth. This barrier blocks out plaque and food to help stop decay before it starts. But how well do sealants work?

What are dental sealants, and how do they work?

Dental sealants are thin, and plastic coatings are applied to molars’ chewing surfaces. The molars are where cavities most often develop since these teeth have many small grooves, pits, and fractures where plaque, bacteria, and food particles can hide. Sealants work by sealing these vulnerable areas to create a smooth, protected surface that is easier to clean.

Sealants provide a mechanical barrier that keeps out decay-causing substances. Bacteria and plaque acids cannot penetrate the sealed surface. With nowhere to grow and multiply, the chance of decay beginning is dramatically decreased. Sealants also make molars easier to brush and floss since there are fewer places for plaque and debris to accumulate.

Evidence supporting sealants for cavity prevention

Research shows that sealants are highly effective at preventing cavities when properly placed. One major study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that sealants reduced decay in permanent molars by nearly 80% over a nine-year period compared to unsealed teeth.

The CDC recommends dental sealants as an evidence-based way to prevent tooth decay among school-age children. Other studies back up this benefit, too. A 2014 systematic review published in The Cochrane Library analyzed 15 clinical trials. The analysis showed sealants decreased cavity rates by 72% and 87% over two years when placed in locations most susceptible to decay.

Proper sealant application for maximum effectiveness

Proper application technique is important for sealants to work best at halting decay. The sealing surface needs to be cleaned, dried, and conditioned so that the sealant material can bond tightly to the enamel. No moisture, plaque, or debris can be present. Then, the liquid sealant flows into the grooves to fill all vulnerable spots. It is hardened and checked to ensure a gap-free coating has formed.

Annual sealant repair and replacement checks are advised, too. Repair or reapplication will be needed if any flaws, fractures, or gaps have formed that are already applied under the seals. Keeping sealants fully intact and bonded is key for preventing decay risks.

How long do sealants last?

With good oral care and avoiding chewing hard or crunchy foods that can crack sealants, they can last 5-10 years on average. However, sealants hold up best when maintained.

As a child grows, permanent molars emerge at different ages. The six-year molars come in around age 6, twelve-year molars around age 12, and wisdom teeth as late as the late teens to early 20s. Newly erupted teeth should be sealed before decay can occur in the grooves. Sealants may also need to be reapplied on older sealed molars, especially approaching the 10-year mark, to renew the protection as enamel ages.

Ideal candidates for sealant application

Because molars are so prone to decay-causing plaque and their uneven chewing surfaces are difficult to keep clean, pit and fissure sealants bring great benefit as an early preventive measure.

The American Dental Association (ADA) and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommend that all children should have sealants applied to their six-year and twelve-year molars as soon as these teeth come in. The first permanent molars erupt around age six, and the second permanent molars erupt around age 12. Treating these teeth early on with sealants is ideal.

Younger teens can benefit from sealants, too, if they have yet to be placed earlier. Some cavity-prone adults may also be candidates if deep grooves exist on molars.

Frequency of sealant repair and replacement

Getting routine dental sealant check-ups and maintenance can help them last. Plan for your child to have their sealants evaluated every six months during regular dental visits. The dentist in will check that sealants remain fully bonded without cracks, gaps, or flaws that allow decay entry. Minor sealant repairs can often be done chairside if caught early. If more extensive damage exists, reapplication will be needed.

Every year or two, additional sealant may be added to fill defects. Full replacement with new sealants is often required, approaching 10 years after initial placement, as normal wear takes a toll over time. Keeping sealants well-maintained ensures your child gets many years of decay prevention.

In summary, clinical evidence makes a strong case that dental sealants are a wise investment to lower children’s cavity risk. When properly applied and well-maintained, sealants boost oral health by acting as a barrier that removes the food debris and bacteria that drive decay. Consistent dental visits and good home care help sealants last for 5-10 years typically, making them a safe, effective preventive choice. Contact your dentist near me at Distinctive Dental Care in , IL, today to ask about protective sealants for your child’s molars.

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