September 28, 2011

Dental Sealants: Preventing Cavities Before They Start

Boy, I sure wish they had dental sealants for teeth back when I was a kid!

When new teeth erupt into the mouth for the very first time they are exposed to all kinds of things in the modern American diet that want to melt them away.  Every little groove, pit and fissure on the tooth can accumulate food and bacterial plaque causing a chronic acid bath that can eventually result in a cavity.  A thin plastic or glass ionomer material called dental sealants can be placed inside these places on the tooth to fill in the potential trouble spots before they can become decayed.

Dental sealants were first reported in studies in the mid-1950s, but were not widely introduced to dental offices until 1967, and recognized by the American Dental Association until 1971. Since then they have become very common in practically every dental office throughout the world.

I believe in  dental sealants so much that I even sealed my children’s baby teeth! Generally, sealants are placed on the permanent teeth  when the tooth first erupts to about two years post eruption.  The research shows that this is the most vulnerable time in the tooth’s life.

Sealants are a fairly simple procedure usually delegated to either the dental hygienist or dental assistant in the State of Florida.  The surface of the tooth is first cleaned with either a brush or a spray of baking soda as in our office.  This cleans the bacteria and food out of the pits/grooves very effectively.  Then a mild acid wash conditions the tooth structure to accept the sealing material, just like a bonded filling.  A very thin light sensitive plastic or glass ionomer material is placed inside the pits/grooves and cured with a very bright light.

Insurance Caution:

Most dental “insurance” companies will pay for dental sealants as part of the regular dental care coverage, BUT recently many companies have sought to cut back on sealant expenditures by placing unreasonable time limits on when sealants can be placed for each individual tooth.  If you decide to not get sealants right after the tooth erupts into the mouth for personal or financial reasons, then you may be in danger of being refused coverage when you finally get around to sealing the teeth because of a dental insurance “trick” you were not aware of on your policy.  It is up to you to contact your insurance representative and make sure your policy doesn’t have these ridiculous restrictions written into your contract.


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