Dental Sealants: An Invisible Protective Shield

Raise your hand if you remember a toothpaste that advertised the “Gardol invisible shield” back in the early 1960s. The TV ads showed the announcer standing behind some kind of invisible panel while actors threw coconuts or other projectiles at him. How great that looked! An invisible shield that protected your teeth from cavities!

It wasn’t until the late 1960s that dentists began using a real invisible shield of sorts to protect teeth. These dental sealants, thin layers of a plastic material applied to the surface of teeth, have become widely accepted as an effective way to help prevent dental caries, or cavities.

Sealing out the bad stuff

Dental sealants are most common on children and adolescents, although they are sometimes used on adults. They may be applied to undamaged teeth or to teeth with just the beginnings of dental caries. They seal out bacteria and food particles in the pits and fissures of the molars. The cost can range from about $35 to about $60 per tooth and most dental insurance companies cover dental sealants.

Most dental sealants are resin-based, although some are made of glass ionomer cement. They are clear, white, or slightly tinted so they can’t be easily seen on teeth. Sealants are applied in a dental office. First, the teeth are carefully cleaned and dried. Sometimes the teeth are roughened slightly with phosphoric acid; sometimes another type of primer is used before application. The sealants may be self-curing, or they may require a light treatment to harden them. Normally, sealants last from three to five years.

Effective at reducing cavities

Research shows that dental sealants are quite effective at reducing cavities in children. According to a report in the Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA), “Reduction of caries incidence in children and adolescents after placement of resin-based sealants ranges from 86 percent at one year to 78.6 percent at two years and 58.6 percent at four years.”. Also, data from Medicaid and dental insurance companies indicate that dental sealants reduce the need for future restorative procedures.

Not without controversy

Dental sealants are not without detractions and controversy. There is some evidence that they can slightly raise the level of bisphenol A or BPA in saliva. This chemical, found in plastics, has been linked to obesity, neurological issues, thyroid function, and various cancers.

Part of a full program of hygiene

Ideally, patients understand dental sealants as only one aspect of a multi-part system of keeping teeth and gums healthy. Fluoride, from toothpaste and rinses as well as from public water supplies, is essential to strengthening teeth. More to the point, regular brushing, flossing and dental visits do the most to get rid of food particles and bacteria that cause cavities. Don’t forget the importance of a healthy diet, with a minimum of sweets, plus the advantages of topical dental antioxidants applied directly to gums.

By the way:

“Gardol” was an ingredient in Colgate toothpaste. It was the company’s name for sodium lauroyl sarcosinate. This substance is known as a surfactant, which means it helps with foaming and cleaning. In other words, the only “protective shield” from Gardol was helping remove pesky bacteria and food particles that lead to bad breath and plaque.

If you’d like to build a powerful daily health regimen to help you keep your teeth looking and feeling their best, PerioSciences can help. Our AO ProVantage products and AO ProRinse help soothe dental tissues and keep your mouth healthy. To learn more about antioxidants in dental care, fill out the form on our blog. To connect with PerioSciences, check us out on Facebook or Twitter.

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