Dental Sealants

About Dental Sealants

While teaching good brushing and flossing habits to children is crucial to the maintenance of healthy teeth, the WDA encourages parents to use dental sealants as a preventive measure to help keep their children’s teeth cavity-free.

Children can benefit the most from the use of dental sealants. The chewing surfaces of children’s newly erupted permanent teeth are highly susceptible to dental caries (cavities). Therefore, sealants are an excellent form of preventive maintenance to stop cavities before they start.

A dental sealant is a thin plastic film painted on the chewing surfaces of molars and premolars (the teeth directly in front of the molars) to prevent plaque from collecting in the pits and fissures of those teeth. Accepted by the American Dental Association Council on Dental Therapeutics in 1972, sealants are widely recognized by dental health experts as a means to prevent cavities and dental decay.

Studies have proven that properly applied sealants are 100 percent effective in protecting the chewing surfaces of teeth from cavities. Acting as a barrier, sealants prohibit small particles of food or bacteria from penetrating areas of teeth more susceptible to decay. As long as the sealant stays intact, cavities will not develop in the area covered by the sealant.

Research also has shown that everyone has a 95 percent chance of eventually experiencing decay in the pits and fissures of their teeth, if sealants are not used in those areas. Sealants are less costly than fillings or other dental procedures. This procedure makes good financial sense for the consumer.

According to the ADA, properly applied and maintained sealants are extremely helpful in preventing cavities and are cost-effective.

To apply a sealant, the surface of the tooth must be thoroughly cleaned and rinsed. Once the surface of the tooth has been prepared, the sealant is painted into the pits and fissures and cured with a curing light. This process usually takes about five minutes per tooth.

The application of dental sealants is an extremely simple procedure to perform and does not cause any discomfort for the patient. Because of their simplicity and effectiveness, from a health standpoint, sealants make excellent sense for both children and adults.

Sealants can last anywhere from five to 10 years, but are not permanent. Regular dental check-ups are still necessary to track the effectiveness of a sealant as well as to clean teeth and to detect and provide early treatment for dental diseases.

BPA and dental sealants

Recent state and national news reports have indicated the potential danger Bisphenol A (BPA) can have on human development and reproduction.

Bisphenol A (BPA) is a commonly used chemical essential for the manufacture of certain plastic materials. BPA can be found in some children’s toys, plastic tableware, infant bottles and other products. There is evidence from laboratory testing that BPA may affect reproduction and development in animals by mimicking the effects of estrogen. To date, researchers have not observed ill effects from Bisphenol A in humans, and there is debate over the level of exposure that might pose a risk.

The ADA is interested in and supports BPA research because some dental sealants, and to a lesser extent dental composite resin filling materials, may contribute to low-level BPA exposure. These types of materials are professional dental products that are subject to clearance by the Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA has concluded, “Based on our ongoing review, we believe there is a large body of evidence that indicates that FDA-regulated products containing BPA currently on the market are safe and that exposure levels to BPA from food contact materials, including for infants and children, are below those that may cause health effects.”

In September 2008, a report on BPA from the interagency National Toxicology Program, stated:

“The primary source of exposure to BPA for most people is through the diet. While air, dust, and water are other possible sources of exposure, BPA in food and beverages accounts for the majority of daily human exposure.”

BPA may become part of dental sealants or composite resin filling materials in three ways: as a direct ingredient, as a by-product of some ingredients in dental composites or sealants that may have degraded, or as a trace material left-over from the manufacture of some ingredients used in making dental composites or sealants.

Dental sealants and composite resin filling materials provide significant benefits in the prevention and treatment of dental caries, the infectious disease that causes cavities. Sealants help to prevent cavities and they can also stop the progress of very early caries. Composite resin materials are tooth-colored fillings that provide cosmetic benefits but they also allow dentists to treat teeth more conservatively (removing less natural tooth material) than may be needed for other types of filling materials.