Dental Sealants have been heralded as the solution to lazy brushing habits.  Sealants are painless, great at preventing cavities, and cost effective.  They are also great for adults.  However, there has been some controversy recently over the use of sealants.

In this article, Dr. La addresses some commonly asked questions about sealants as well as information in regards to their safety.

What are Dental Sealants?

Teeth have varying levels of small pits, fissures, grooves and crevices.  You can feel some of these with your tongue.  Food particles can get trapped in these areas and it is near impossible to brush or floss it out.  Bacteria and plaque can build up in these areas and cavities form.

A sealant is a clear coating that is applied that seeps into these cracks and crevices to protect the teeth.  It is usually applied to the chewing surfaces of the molars where tooth decay most often occurs.

Even a great brusher can’t reach all of the areas needed to clean out plaque so sealants can help provide extra protection than brushing and flossing alone.

The benefits of sealants include:


      • Long lasting protection across the biting surfaces.

      • Great layer of extra protection while children are learning how to brush.

      • Fast to apply.

      • Painless.

      • Inexpensive.  Sometimes covered by insurance.

      • Proven to reduce decay, plaque and cavities.

    How are Sealants Applied?

    Sealants are quick to apply and painless.  The teeth are first cleaned thoroughly.  Then the sealant is applied with a brush and flows into the pits and grooves of the teeth.  This prevents food and plaque from getting in.  It also acts as a barrier to acid and decay.

    The sealant is a resin that bonds to the tooth.  In some cases a special light may be used to cure, or harden, the resin.  This process is called polymerization.

    Sealants are completed in one office visit (unless they are applied as each tooth erupts the gum line).

    How dental sealants are applied

    When Should My Child Get Dental Sealants?

    Tooth decay can begin immediately, thus it is important for children to get sealants once their permanent teeth have erupted.  Sealants are typically placed on permanent back molars which typically come in between the ages of 6 and 12.  Around 12 a second set of molars comes in which should also receive sealants.

    Sealants can be placed on baby teeth but this is not typical.  There may be specific reasons for children with baby teeth to receive sealants, please consult with Dr. La for more information.

    For adults, it is never too late to receive sealants.

    How Long Do Dental Sealants Last?

    Dental sealants can last up to 10 years. However, regular check-ups at the dentist are necessary to check if the dental sealants have chipped or have worn away.

    Over time sealants can become loose or worn and not protect as good.  Teeth grinding, chewing hard candies or ice, or poor hygiene habits can shorten the life of sealants.  However, worn or damaged sealants can be removed and replaced.

    What’s the Difference Between a Sealant and a Filling?

    Sealants are a preventive measure to help avoid cavities, plaque and tooth decay. Fillings are restorative dentistry, where the tooth is already damaged by decay and a cavity has formed.  So sealants are a proactive attempt at prevention whereas fillings are a treatment for a condition.

    Prevention is always better than treatment!

    What do Dental Sealants Cost?

    Sealants are valuable to a child’s health.  Prevention is less expensive and less painful than treating a cavity! Sealants represent an investment in you or your child’s teeth to avoid costly future procedures like fillings, caps, or crowns.

    Some insurance companies cover the cost of sealants for children, so be sure to check with your dental insurance carrier to see if sealants are covered in your plan or call our office to help check ahead of time.

    Sealants for Adults

    Adults can benefit from sealants as well. Many adults did not have the option of sealants available when they were children.  It is never too late to get sealants.

    Sealants are especially recommended for adults whose teeth are especially prone to decay.

    Dental Sealants can prevent cavities in children and adults.
    Dental Sealants can prevent cavities

    Are Sealants Safe?

    There are many conflicting reports about the safety of sealants.  Some older sealants contain BPA (bisphenol A).  Others contain derivatives of BPA (Bis-GMA or Bis-DMA).  BPA is a chemical found in plastic bottles and is known to emulate estrogen.  This can disrupt the body’s natural endocrine system and has been shown to pose a health risk.

    A report was published that showed that when BPA derivatives are exposed to saliva over time, a chemical reaction can occur that causes BPA to be produced.  Also, within the first few hours of applying sealants a perceptible level of BPA is present.  Washing the tooth immediately following application greatly reduces the possible exposure.  Also, Bis-GMA shows a lesser chance of converting to BPA than Bis-DMA.  So the selection of sealant material used is important.

    Overall studies found that the exposure to BPA at application time is brief and is miniscule long term.  The role in preventing cavities is undeniable however and the usage of sealants is still encouraged.

    The great news is the dental industry is very good at policing itself.  Most manufactures of the resins used have switched to Bis-GMA and have reduced the amount of Bis-GMA over 50%.  Some manufacturers have completely eliminated using BPA or its derivatives.

    Dr. La only uses the finest materials in his dental work and continually educates himself on the latest techniques and products.  Dr. La recommends all parents check in regularly with the American Dental Association  and other trusted dental information sites for the latest information on this and other controversial dental issues.


    An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

    The benefits of sealants far outweigh the negatives, especially when safe materials are used.  Prevention is always better than treatment.

    Call our office today to see if sealants are right for you or your children.  At Arlington Family Dentistry

    It’s Time to Smile!