Problems With Dental Sealants
For years, dentists around the country have been recommending dental sealants to their pediatric patients. Increasingly, however, more information is becoming available about the effects of dental sealants and not all of that information is necessarily positive. According to Heck Family Dentistry‘s Dr. Brian Heck, a dentist in Lawrence, KS, the downsides of sealants are beginning to outweigh the upsides in many cases.
As Dr. Heck explains, dental sealants can be a fantastic way to prevent against decay and cavities in the mouths of young people. However, they are not being routinely placed correctly by many dentists, and because of this, some new problems are beginning to show up.
Dr. Heck points to a recent study that has been widely distributed within the dental community. He says that it showed that after five years, 95% of all dental sealants placed on patients had decay underneath them. This presents a serious problem, because it makes that decay less detectable and harder to get rid of. Although there isn’t anything wrong with the dental sealant product itself, Dr. Heck says the issue comes down to how sealants are put on. If dentists continue using sealants in the same way, then there are going to be serious problems in the future, he says.
When dental sealants are used correctly, they can be a wonderful thing. However, in order for a dental sealant to work properly the grooves of the teeth that are being sealed have to be 100% completely cleaned out before the sealant is placed over the top. Oftentimes, this cleaning process is almost as extensive as what needs to be done in order for a filling to be put in.
In the past, Dr. Heck says many dentists disregarded this thorough cleaning process under the assumption that any sealants put over the top of microorganisms would cut off the air supply to the microorganisms and stop the growth from progressing any further. More recent studies, however, have shown that the bacteria are smarter than people gave them credit for. When faced with a decreased air supply, this oral bacteria converts into anaerobic bacteria that does not need oxygen to continue growing. This allows decay to continue increasing underneath the sealant itself.
Presently, Dr. Heck says that he still does sealants, but only for select patients. As a dentist in Lawrence, KS, Dr. Heck says it is better for a pediatric patient to not have sealants at all, rather than to have sealants while decay and bacteria are continuing to grow on the covered up teeth underneath. He encourages patients who already have sealants in place to continue visiting their dentist for regular check ups and to remain especially vigilant about maintaining excellent oral hygiene.
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