The Pros and Cons of Dental Sealants

The Pros and Cons of Dental Sealants

If you or your child has visited a dentist recently, he or she might have recommended dental sealants. Dental sealants are accepted as a reliable way to prevent cavities caused by tooth decay. As with any procedure, you will need information to know if dental sealants are right for you or your child. This means weighing the pros and cons of dental sealants.

Here is handy chart with the pros and cons of dental sealants:

Pros of Getting Dental Sealants

Cons of Getting Dental Sealants

  • They can help avoid cavities
  • They might seal in decay if it already exists
  • Having them applied is quick and painless
  • They are optional, and so represent an additional cost
  • They are cheaper than fillings
  • They don’t last forever
  • They are safe (BPA not an issue)

Let’s take a look at each of these pros and cons of dental sealants so you can make an informed decision.

Why Would My Dentist Recommend Dental Sealants?

Teeth, especially molars, have natural pits and fissures that help grind up food when you chew. Food particles and bacteria can get caught in these pockets. Unfortunately, even good brushing can’t always remove all of these decay-causing particles.

Dental sealants are made of liquid resin, which is like a clear, plastic paint that hardens when it dries. A dentist paints the liquid onto teeth, filling in the tiny crevasses. This coating forms a shield to keep out decay.

There are three main reasons why dentists recommend sealants.

  1. They keep food from collecting in the fissures and causing decay,
  2. They are hardly noticeable once in,
  3. They are especially good for kids who might not be good at brushing their back teeth.

Are Dental Sealants Just for Children?

Since children may not always brush their teeth properly, they may be more likely to get cavities. For this reason, dental sealants are often recommended for children. Generally, sealants are applied to a child’s adult molars as soon as they come in around age six. In some cases, dentists may even recommend sealants for baby teeth if the child is prone to decay.

But adults may be candidates for dental sealants too. Some people are more cavity-prone than others, so sealants may be an option worth considering. No matter what the age, it is good to know the pros and cons of sealants.

Do Dental Sealants Work?

This is usually the first question asked when weighing the pros and cons of sealants. Both the American Dental Association and the Center for Disease Control recognize the advantages of dental sealants. Both organizations have collected data that shows a reduction in cavities for children who have dental sealants compared with those who don’t.

You can read more about the findings in our article “Do Sealants Really Protect Your Teeth?” or read the ADA study itself.

Are Dental Sealants Safe?

Especially when considering a procedure for children, safety is always a concern. When talking about the pros and cons of sealants, the subject of BPA is sometimes raised. BPA is a synthetic compound found in many plastics. Studies have shown that exposure to large amounts can be harmful.

Since sealants are made of plastic and may contain trace amounts of BPA, they are sometimes thought to be unsafe. But the amounts of BPA in sealants are tiny. Research by The American Dental Association shows that the amounts are well below anything that could be harmful. In fact, people are exposed to more BPA in their day-to-day lives than they are through sealants.

You can discuss your concerns with your dentist There are some BPA-free sealants on the market that may be an option.

Are Sealants Expensive?

Cost is another important issue when deciding on the pros and cons of sealants. Some dental insurance plans cover them for children. Even if you are paying out of pocket, getting dental sealants is usually less expensive than getting a filling. And if you have multiple cavities over time, those costs can add up. You may decide that a one-time application of a sealant is more cost-effective alternative.

I Don’t Want to Go to the Dentist

When looking at the pros and cons of sealants, some people will automatically think of going to the dentist for a procedure as a negative. But getting sealants can prevent future procedures that will be much more unpleasant.

There is no guarantee that if you don’t get sealants, you will get cavities. But if you do, you will need to have fillings put in. In our article “Do I Need to Get My Cavity Filled,” we discussed the pain and cost of not taking care of dental problems right away. On the other hand, dental sealants may help you avoid getting even small cavities in the first place.

The process is quick and painless. You can read how it works in our article “What to Expect When Getting Sealants.”

Can Sealants be Sealing in Decay?

This topic sometimes comes up when discussing the pros and cons of sealants. What happens if you already have a cavity when they put the sealant on? Won’t the cavity grow and get worse?

Technically, this could happen, but it is very rare. A reputable dentist with experience in sealants will take measures to avoid this. Applying sealants will happen after a thorough dental checkup and cleaning. The teeth will be examined for any problems, and any cavities will be addressed before the sealing procedure begins.

And getting dental sealants doesn’t mean you can stop seeing your dentist. You still need to practice good dental hygiene and schedule regular checkups. At the checkups, your dentist will check the sealants to make sure they are still intact.

Sealants Don’t Last Forever

This is true, and you may consider it a negative when weighing the pros and cons of sealants. Sealants last on average for five to ten years. They hold up even longer for some people. Your dentist will check them at every visit and will let you know if and when they need to be replaced.

Deciding if five to ten years of freedom from cavities is worth the cost will depend on each individual situation. If your teeth are prone to cavities, it may be a wise investment when compared to the possibility of having to get cavities filled.

Are Sealants the Right Choice?

Before deciding if dental sealants are right for you or your child, you will want to weigh these pros and cons.

If someone is at low risk of tooth decay, they may not have a need for sealants. This would include people with good diets and exceptional oral hygiene. And some people have relatively smooth teeth, with shallow grooves. Food particles are easily brushed away and they’re not prone to cavities.

For many, though, the minimal cost and discomfort is an effective alternative to the possibility of cavities down the road.