Dental sealants are used to prevent cavities. The sealant is painted over the grooves in the back teeth to seal them and prevent bacteria from getting in.
What is the purpose of dental sealants?
Dr. Darren McKeever: Dental sealants are a means that we use to protect teeth from their own natural enemy, which is their own anatomy. If you really look closely at the tops, the biting surfaces of back teeth, that includes molars and pre-molars, you’ll see that there are all these grooves in the teeth. Those grooves, if you look at them microscopically, they actually go deeper and deeper and deeper into the tooth, and they get tinier and tinier. They’re not so tiny that bacteria can’t get all the way down into that groove and cause a cavity very deep into the tooth.
What sealants do is they seal over all those grooves and eliminate them as a potential spot for bacteria to get into the tooth and cause a cavity.
How are dental sealants applied?
Dr. Darren McKeever: Sealants are one of the easiest things that we actually do in dentistry. The tooth has to be cleaned and the tooth has to be prepared with a special chemical. Then the sealants are literally just painted over the grooves. Then we harden them with special light that causes the material to go from a soft viscous consistency to a very thin, yet hard, sealer of all those grooves. They’re really very, very simple.
Who can get sealants?
Dr. Darren McKeever: Well, technically, anybody who has back teeth can get sealants but most beneficially it seems to be for younger people. When the six-year molars come in, they’re way in the back, very hard for a six-year-old to clean. Then later, you get the pre-molars coming in. Still might be a little hard to clean. Then even after that, the 12-year molars come in even further back, and they’re even harder to clean, especially since at that point, that particular person might have braces on. Even adults, if they’re worried about the risk of cavities, they can get their teeth sealed also.
Can sealants be placed over cavities?
Dr. Darren McKeever: That is a little bit of a controversial topic. Years ago, they thought if they sealed over a very, very small incipient cavity, that they would starve the cavity and the sealant would keep the cavity from ever getting bigger. The problem is, it turned out not to be quite true and these cavities would still progress and get larger. In my opinion, you really don’t want to seal over a tooth that has decay in it. Now what I do is we use our laser to actually clean the grooves in the tooth sometimes when we suspect that maybe there is a stain in a groove or maybe that stain might be a little bit to the point where it’s become a cavity.
The laser will literally spray out that area, and then we can apply the sealant, and we’re confident that we’re not leaving anything behind that’s going to harm the tooth later.
How long do sealants last and do they need to be re-applied?
Dr. Darren McKeever: Sealants last for years usually, especially if you take good care of your teeth and you brush. Can they come off? It’s possible. They can be worked off but more often than not, the areas where the sealants are worked off is in the working area of the tooth where you really don’t need the sealant. The incline cusp so to speak of a tooth, which is really like the side of a mountain when you’re climbing up a mountain. You don’t need sealants on that side of the tooth.
Where you need them is in the very deepest part of the valley, and they very, very, very rarely come off in that area. They can be reapplied should it happen, but it’s really rare that we see that.
If you are interested in speaking with Dr. Darren McKeever, visit www.mckeeverdentalcare.com or call 973-839-8180 to schedule an appointment.