Did you know that 5% of people between the age of 20 and 64 have no teeth? It’s very sad but true. The only positive thing about being edentulous (toothless) is that you are immune to tooth decay. In individuals between the ages of 65-74, the number jumps to 30%. While decay is not the only reason for tooth loss, periodontal disease holds this honor’ it is a major factor. Prevention is key to a healthy smile and body. Dental sealants are a preventative measure that can be taken to reduce the risk of decay. Aren’t they just for kids? While it is true that sealants are more commonly offered to children, dental sealants for adults can be beneficial at all ages.
DENTAL DECAY PREVENTION IS KEY
Less than ideal oral hygiene routines coupled with genetics can play a role in the development of periodontal disease and dental decay. About 25% of adults have untreated tooth decay. A healthy diet, good routines such a frequent tooth brushing, flossing and at least annual professional dental check-ups can help you not end up a statistic, but it’s not a guarantee. If you feel that despite your best efforts you still seem to develop decay then talk to you dentist about the placement of dental sealants. Dental sealants are very effective at protecting teeth with a clear, thin barrier that coats all the many tooth surfaces and resists bacteria and plaque.
Dental sealants have been commonly used as a preventative tool in dentistry since the 1960s says San Francisco Cosmetic Dentist Dr. Edward L. Loev, DMD. Dentist usually use one of two types of sealant. The most common one is a resin sealant that is hardened using a special light as it offers most flexibility of time and application, but an “autopolymerizing” (two ingredients are mixed together and harden in a specific amount of time) sealants are also used and equally effective.
WHICH TEETH SHOULD GET SEALANTS
The biting surfaces of molars and premolars (grinding teeth) are prime candidates for sealants as they are most at risk for tooth decay. The tiny grooves and crevices that make these teeth so effective at chewing are equally adept at trapping food particles. Did you know that the bite pressure of an adult molar is about 170lbs? That is truly well packed plaque, even with regular brushing decay can easily develop in this fissures.
Virgin teeth without decay or fillings are the best candidates for sealants. As we age we are less likely to have as many untreated teeth surfaces. By placing sealants on the unblemished teeth we are hoping to preserve them and prevent them from developing decay. Once decay has developed the damaged tooth structure should be removed and a filling placed a process which is more invasive and expensive than the preventative sealant.
Sealants are easy, painless and quick says San Francisco Cosmetic Dentist Dr. Edward L. Loev, DMD. I love being able to offer patients a treatment that helps them maintain healthy teeth.
It all starts with clean teeth. Sealants are generally placed in conjunction with a dental cleaning to ensure that no bacteria is sealed onto the tooth surface. The dentist or hygienist will pay special attention to those grooves as that’s where the plaque likes to hide. Once all of the surfaces are clean and free of debris (sometimes a dental hand-piece or micro-abrasion), the surfaces are dried thoroughly. That’s silky smooth feeling that we all like after our teeth cleaning is going to be disrupted temporarily. In order, to obtain the best grip, your dentist with use a special solution to “rough up” the top surface of the tooth. In addition, to providing a bit of a “tooth,” pun intended, for the sealant to adhere to the etching solution kills any remaining bacteria. It is quick and easy.
The next step is to “rough up” the tooth’s surface. This provides a better grip for the sealant. The dentist applies a mild phosphoric acid solution, called etching gel, to the target surface. It’s really a liquid, so it flows into even the tiniest fissures. In addition to texturing the enamel, etching gel kills bacteria. The dentist rinses the gel off after about a minute and dries the surface with an air syringe. Now it’s time for the sealant. Dry, dry, dry… is the key to a good sealant placement. Your dentist or hygienist will now use either a small brush or syringe to apply the sealant to the prepared tooth surfaces, paying special attention to the grooves. The sealant will now either be hardened through the use of a light, or chemically hardened in a short amount of time. All that’s left now is to check you bite. Even though the sealant is very thin it is very important to make sure that one’s bite is still even. If any excess sealant is on the tooth it will gently be buffed off. That is it, it takes only about 5-10 minutes total to protect those critical tooth surfaces.
SO…TO SEAL OR NOT SEAL?
Let’s review the pros and cons of sealants. Sealant treatment in adults generally costs about $30 – $50 per tooth. Some insurance companies have recently begun covering this preventative treatment in adults. Even if insurance does not cover the treatment, the cost if sealants is a lot less than it would cost to get a cavity filled and much more comfortable. Dental sealants are about 80% effective in preventing decay in molars, so the payoff is a winner from this standpoint. While 80% is a nice number it doesn’t mean that it completely protects from all decay. Proper brushing and flossing, and visits to your dentist should still be very important parts of your overall oral hygiene routine. Dental sealants are not permanent. Sealants should be examined at every check-up but they generally last between 3-7 years depending on oral hygiene and clenching and grinding habits. This increases the lifetime cost of this solution, but it still beats the expense and process of a filling. While very small, there is always a risk that existing decay, covered by a sealant, can penetrate into the interior of a tooth. The antibacterial properties of the etching solution help combat this but it is possible. BPA in sealants? At one point concerns about of BPA in sealants was presented to the community, the American Dental Association has concluded that there is no basis for this concern and released a number of reports. Despite the findings, manufacturers have either stopped using that chemical or reduced its concentration by 50%.
Dr. Edward L. Loev, DMD has been caring for his patients for decades from his dental office that overlooks San Francisco’s Union Square. He and his team take pride in providing the best quality and most gentle dental care available. Over the years they have transformed 100’s of “non-dentist” people into people who actually enjoy their visits and take pride in their smiles. A dental relationship should be a positive one, make sure that you feel comfortable and cared for by your dentist if the experience is “meh…” then ask friends, family and colleagues about their dentist. If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area and are in need or want of a new dentist. Dr. Loev and his team would love the opportunity to meet you and earn your trust and loyalty call them at 415-392-2072 or schedule an appointment online today